India's protesting wrestlers to sink medals in Ganges

May 30, 2023
Visuals of the athletes being dragged and carried off in buses went viral
Visuals of the athletes being dragged and carried off in buses went viral

NEW DELHI — India's top wrestlers have said they will throw their medals in the Ganges, the country's holiest river, as part of their ongoing months-long protest.

They also plan to go on an indefinite hunger strike at India Gate -- a war memorial in capital Delhi.

The wrestlers have been demanding the resignation and arrest of their federation chief who they accuse of sexually harassing female wrestlers for years.

He has denied the allegations.

"These medals are our life and soul...We feel there's no meaning to having these medals around our necks anymore," the wrestlers said in a statement on Tuesday.

Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and two-time World Champion medallist Vinesh Phogat are among the protesters who shared the statement.

The wrestlers said they had first considered returning their medals to the president and the prime minister but were left disappointed that the two had not asked after them even once.

"After we put them [the medals] in River Ganga, there would be no meaning for us to live. So we will got to India Gate and sit on a fast unto death," the statement added.

On Sunday, Malik, Punia and Phogat were among several detained while attempting to march towards India's new parliament building as part of their protest.

They were stopped by the police and taken away from the area in buses. The incident took place a few miles from the parliament building which was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Visuals of the athletes being dragged and carried off in buses went viral, sparking criticism from some top athletes and opposition politicians.

In their statement on Tuesday, the wrestlers decried the police action against them and said they had been treated like "criminals".

"Have female athletes committed some crime by asking for justice for the sexual harassment committed against them?" they asked.

Delhi Police have filed cases including of rioting against the wrestlers.

They also cleared out their protest site in Delhi, though the wrestlers have said they will return there.

The athletes began their protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the chief of the wrestling federation in India, on 23 April.

Singh, an influential politician and MP of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has constantly denied all the allegations and called the protests politically motivated.

On Monday, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said the wrestlers had not been stopped from protesting at their designated spots in Delhi. He said appropriate action would be taken against Mr Singh once Delhi Police completed their investigations.

He also asked the wrestlers to register their statements in the case. — BBC

May 30, 2023
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