This Article is From Jun 02, 2023

"Distressed, Disturbed": 1983 Champions' Support For Protesting Wrestlers

"We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled," the cricket team, which also included icons like Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath, appealed.

'Distressed, Disturbed': 1983 Champions' Support For Protesting Wrestlers

Indian wrestlers have been on protest since January this year.

New Delhi:

Amid increasingly dire warnings by top Indian wrestlers about the pace of the sexual harassment investigation against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, members of the country's 1983 World Cup-winning cricket team urged the athletes on Friday not to take any extreme steps like throwing their hard-earned medals into the holy river Ganga.

Elite wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia have been leading the protests, demanding the arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for the alleged sexual exploitation of women wrestlers. Despite moving their protest to Haridwar on May 30, the athletes refrained from carrying out their threat of discarding their medals in the river after last-minute appeals from leaders of a prominent farmers' group.

"We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard-earned medals into the river Ganga," a statement released by the 1983 World Cup-winning team read. "Those medals have involved years of effort, sacrifice, determination, and grit and are not only their own but the nation's pride and joy."

"We urge them not to take any hasty decision in this matter, and also fervently hope that their grievances are heard and resolved quickly. Let the law of the land prevail," the cricket team, led by legendary skipper Kapil Dev and including icons like Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath, appealed.

Speaking to NDTV, one of the members of team Kirti Azad said, "When you see world champions being dragged by the police on the ground, that's a very sad sight. These people are the pride of the nation... The girls [when they won medals] were called by the Prime Minister... And when these kinds of things happen, not a single tweet?"

"They had to go to the Supreme Court to ask the police to file an FIR? Is this the kind of justice that you get in this country? One FIR was filed under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) which merits immediate arrest, which did not take place," he said.

"It shows the attitude of the police; absolutely treating them with utter disdain... Who is protecting him? What is the police doing?" Mr Azad added.

The statement followed a police crackdown on Sunday when the protesting wrestlers were detained for marching towards the new Parliament building without permission and their protest site in central Delhi was flushed out.

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur has also appealed to the wrestling champions to wait for the outcome of investigations into the allegations. He assured the athletes that the Delhi Police, under the Supreme Court's direction, is diligently investigating the case.

The allegations against Mr Singh have also led to international concern. The United World Wrestling criticized the "lack of results" in the investigations and reminded the Indian Olympic Association of a promise it made in April to hold fresh elections for the WFI within 45 days.

Mr Singh, who has been stripped of his administrative powers, continues to deny the allegations, insisting he would accept any verdict if proof is provided. "Brij Bhushan will not be hanged by throwing medals in the Ganga. If you have proof, give it to the court and if the court hangs me, I will accept it," Mr Singh stated.