Wrestlers protests: It was another eventful day (Tuesday, May 30) in the weeks-long protest being carried out by top wrestlers, including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations.
- Protests reach Haridwar: On a drama-filled Tuesday, some of India's best wrestlers accompanied by hundreds of supporters gathered here on the banks of the Ganga, threatening to immerse their World and Olympic medals in the holy river but refrained after being convinced by Khap and farmer leaders who sought five days to address their grievances. Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat arrived at Har ki Pauri to immerse their medals in Ganga. Sakshi, Vinesh and her cousin Sangeeta were seen sobbing as their husbands tried to console them, even as scores of their supporters formed a cordon around them. The wrestlers stood for about 20 minutes in silence after reaching Har ki Pauri.
- Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's reaction: "Let the probe happen, it is in the hands of Delhi Police. If found wrong, then arresting will also take place," the WFI chief said
- No medal immersion: As the deadline for the immersion of the medals drew closer, senior farmer leaders Sham Singh Malik and Naresh Tikait sought five days' time from the grapplers to resolve the issue. "The khap leaders put their turbans before us and said 'do not lose hope'. Keep the dignity of the turban and return. So we decided to wait," said wrestler Jitender Kinha, who has been a part of the protesting group. There were chaotic scenes at the Har ki Pauri as khap and farmer leaders broke the human chain of supporters to reach out to the grapplers, even as thousands of devotees, who had gathered on the occasion of Ganga Dussehra, looked baffled as commotion reigned supreme.
- Sports Ministry's stand: Close on the heels of the wrestlers announcing they would immerse their medals, sports ministry sources said the trophies and medals also belonged to the country. "The medal that the wrestlers have won do not belong to them alone, but to the country, because they played under the Indian flag and their medals have been won with the efforts of not just the wrestlers' hard work but also the hard work of multiple people like their coaches, support staff," a ministry source told PTI. He added that crores of taxpayers' money had gone into their training.
- Cannot protest at India Gate: The wrestlers, after being evicted from Jantar Mantar on May 28 have said they will continue their protest and go on a hunger strike "until death" at the India Gate. However, the Delhi Police said on Tuesday that they will not be allowed to protest at India Gate as it is a "national monument and not a site for demonstrations".
- Khaps and farmer: Haryana's 'khaps' and farmer outfits were among the organisations which appealed to the protesting wrestlers on Tuesday not to immerse their medals in the Ganga, before the athletes called off the move. Throwing their weight behind the protesting wrestlers, Phogat Khap leader Balwant Nambardar had said, "We request them that these medals are the results of their hard work, sacrifices of their families and support from society. They should not take this step. ""It is unfortunate that those who represented the nation in top international tournaments are forced to take such decisions. The government should be ashamed and give justice to them in the case," he added. Haryana BKU (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni had also requested the protesting wrestlers not to immerse their medals, saying the awards were part of national heritage and future generations would take inspiration from these.
- SKM's nationwide protest: Farmers' outfit Samyukta Kisan Morcha called for nationwide demonstrations on June 1 in support of wrestlers who have been demanding the arrest of BJP MP and WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accused of sexually harassing women grapplers. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in a statement, said it has given the call for the nationwide agitation "to secure the democratic right to protest by the Indian wrestlers" and all other sections of society and to "demand the arrest of BJP MP Brij Bhushan Saran Singh". The Morcha will coordinate with platforms of trade unions, women, youth, students and all other sections, including intellectuals, to stage demonstrations across India, it said.
- UWW condemnation: The United World Wrestling (UWW) on Tuesday condemned the detention of India's top wrestlers during their protest in Jantar Mantar and threatened to suspend the national federation WFI if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time. The world body said it has been keeping an eye on the protest by the wrestlers against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing several women.
- Opposition leaders' reaction: Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge slammed Modi government in a chorus demanding action against WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
- Muhammad Ali incident: The whole episode was reminiscent of the 1960 incident when the legendary Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio river to protest racial segregation in the US. However, after spending an hour and 45 minutes, they returned after several khap and political leaders urged them not to take such an extreme step.
(With PTI input)