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Rediff.com  » Sports » This is a player's movement; not linked to any political party: Bajrang Punia

This is a player's movement; not linked to any political party: Bajrang Punia

Source: PTI
April 29, 2023 19:04 IST
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IMAGE: Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia claimed there were a few trying to steer the movement in a different direction. Photograph: PTI

The protesting wrestlers on Saturday claimed that a few people have entered their movement with a motive to lead it to a different direction but did not clarify who they were.

Bajrang Punia, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist, said the wrestlers won't let anyone use their platform for political gains.

"A few people are trying to take our movement to a different direction and we strongly refute it. This is a fight for justice for India's daughters," said Bajrang, though he was silent when asked who was doing it.

Probably, Bajrang was referring to the group of people who were heard raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A group of people was heard shouting 'Modi teri kabr khudegi' (Modi your grave will be dug here) on Friday.   

"A lot of people have entered the protest site and trying to project it as a 'bhadkau andolan' but this is fight to save Indian wrestling. People who are here (assembled) are in our support but not for any political gains," said Bajrang.

 

"Politics and other things are secondary, the dignity and honour of women is first, so please don't indulge in politics. This is players' movement, so do not link to any political party," he added.

The wrestlers themselves have sought support from all politicians, farmers' and women's organisations since they resumed their protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Politicians such as Congress party's Priyanka Gandhi and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary, former Jammu and Kahsmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, Delhi government ministers Atishi Singh and Suarbah Bhardwaj have all visited the protest site to extend their support to the athletes in the last few days.

Vinesh Phogat also sought to placate the people in position of power in her address to media on Saturday.

"All those, who hold constitutional posts (I want to say), that the common man also deserves respect. We respect all, we will not say anything that goes against their honour, but we should also be respected.

"If by mistake we have said something, we apologise because that was not the intention. We come from a civilised society, we have been taught that elders should always be respected," Vinesh said.

Both Bajrang and Vinesh were silent as to who was trying to give their protest a political colour.

Before Delhi Police filed an FIR against WFI chief and BJP MP Singh on Friday evening, the wrestlers had said that they do not trust the probe agency and feared that it might file a loose (improper) FIR.

Asked if they are satisfied with the content of the FIR, both Bajrang and Vinesh chose not to say anything.

"Talk to our legal team," was all they said in response to the question.

WFI chief Singh addressed the media in Gonda earlier in the day and said that he would quit if the wrestlers end their protest and resume training.

He also claimed that the protesting wrestlers tried to avoid national competition by seeking exemption.

Responding to that, Vinesh said that they have never tried to avoid the Nationals.

"We have been accused that we don't want to play Nationals. Ever since I began competing in 2009, I have skipped only four Nationals. I got injured during the Rio Games (2016), that was first year.

"Then, I skipped the National during the COVID times near Tokyo Games. I myself was down with COVID-19. The third National I skipped was after the Tokyo Games because I was not in a good mental state after defeat. I could have done anything to myself at that time (due to depression).

"The fourth National I missed was this year. I had requested that we be permitted to skip the World Championship trials because cutting weight thrice in a month is difficult. I have competed in 10 Nationals. By God's grace I have not faced defeat in India (to an Indian opponent in Nationals). I work hard, my family and entire country supported me.

"I am not a champion athlete, there are bigger athletes than me, not just in India but also abroad. One such is sitting beside me, Bajrang also goes to international competitions after clearing trials, so what's my status?

"No player is bigger than the nation. His allegations are baseless, he is trying to break us."

Adding to that, Bajrang said, "This issue is not about Nationals. This is about sexual harassment. He should answer those questions. How he got to know that a minor appeared before the police but not before the oversight panel? Who leaked this information to him?"

Vinesh said the wrestlers were forced to invite the WFI chief to family functions due to fears.

Bajrang also claimed that they were being harassed by Delhi police.

"Last night, they cut our power supply, did not let us bring food and water and even mattresses and takhtas (wooden cots). Even one of the workers, who brought these things to the protest site, has not reached home. The police is not treating the athletes well.

"Is this the honour of the country's athletes? What's the point of winning those medals if we had to face all these?" he asked.

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