Protesting ace wrestlers have temporarily shelved their plans to consign their medals in Ganga at Haridwar after intervention from farmer leader Naresh Tikait. They have given a five-day deadline for action against the wrestling federation chief.
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With the UP police saying they would not deter the wrestlers from their plan to consign the medals to the Ganga, visuals from the spot showed locals consoling the tearful athletes, asking them to hold on to the medals that came to India through years of hard work and dedication. Later, the farmer and khap leaders stepped in.
If the athletes stuck to their resolve, India could have lost two Olympic medals, and a handful of Commonwealth Games and World Championship medals. Sakshi Malik has won one Olympic bronze and three medals at the Commonwealth Games. Vinesh Phogat has won two World Championship medals, two medals at Asiad and three Commonwealth Games medals. Bajrang Punia has won an Olympic bronze, four World Championships medals, two Asian Games and three Commonwealth Games medals.
The wrestlers, who allege that their protest against wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been largely ignored, had announced their decision to consign the medals to Ganga in an emotive message on Tuesday.
"It seems that these medals decorated around our necks have no meaning any more," read the statement in Hindi, tweeted out by top athletes including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat. "The police and the system are treating us as criminals while the harasser openly attacks us in public meetings," the wrestlers added, refering to Sunday's crackdown that took place as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new parliament.
"These medals are our lives, our souls. There would be no reason to live after immersing them in the Ganga today. So, we will start a hunger strike until death at India Gate after that," added the statement.
The Delhi Police, who shut the Jantar Mantar protest site to the wrestlers after Sunday's crackdown, said they will not be allowed to hold a protest at India Gate. The Delhi Police had accused the protesting wrestlers of rioting on Sunday, saying they broke the law in a frenzy despite repeated requests.
On Sunday, the protesters were detained by the Delhi Police as they attempted a protest march to the new parliament. Visuals of champions Vinesh Phogat and her cousin Sangeeta Phogat being manhandled and pinned onto the ground by the police had evoked shock and outrage across the country.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP, accused of sexually harassing some of the top wrestlers, was present at the inauguration of the new parliament as the police carried out its crackdown barely 5 km away. He has denied any wrongdoing.The Delhi Police have registered two cases -- including one under the stringent law against child abuse -- against the MP.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann have slammed the BJP-led Central government. "The whole country is shocked... Now the Prime Minister should leave his arrogance," read a tweet from Mr Kejriwal. Calling the situation "shameful", Bhagwant Mann tweeted, "If the voice is not raised in time, then the next turn will be to shed the assets of the country's democracy".
The United World Wrestling has threatened action against the Wrestling Federation of India if its internal elections are not held in time. In a statement, the governing body of amateur wrestling said it was worried about the detention of wrestlers and disappointed over lack of investigation results.