The nation’s eyes are on the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, with the Supreme Court set to hear a petition against alleged sexual misconduct by wrestling body chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan today.
"There are serious allegations made in the petition by wrestlers who have represented India in international games about sexual harassment meted out to them. The matter requires consideration by this court," said a bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.
Meanwhile, the protesting wrestlers said they were hurt by Indian Olympic Association chief and former Indian athlete PT Usha's criticism of their protest and that they had been looking up to her for support. Asian Games medallist Vinesh Phogat alleged she had even phoned her to discuss the matter but the latter did not answer her call, hinting that Usha could be "under some kinds of pressure".
Usha had attacked the wrestlers for not waiting for the report of a committee that is looking into their allegations to come out before deciding to restart their public protest. She said the protest "amounts to indiscipline".
"The players should not have protested on the streets. They should have at least waited for the report of the committee. What they have done is not good for the game and the country. It is a negative approach," Usha had said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also slammed Usha for criticising the wrestlers' public protest. Another politician, Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Uddhav Thackeray camp off the Shiv Sena, also criticised Usha's remarks.
Vinesh also slammed the country's top cricketers, asking why they've been silent on the matter.
"The entire country worships cricket but not even a single cricketer has spoken up. We aren't saying that you speak in our favour, but at least put up a neutral message and say there should be justice for whichever party,” she told Indian Express in an interview.
"It's not like we don't have big athletes in our country. There are cricketers... During the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, they showed their support. Don't we deserve even that much," she asked.
Indian Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra also reacted to the issue. Taking to Twitter, the ace javelin throw athlete stated that his heart breaks seeing the wrestlers taking to the street in search of justice.
"It hurts me to see our athletes on the streets demanding justice. They have worked hard to represent our great nation and make us proud. As a nation, we are responsible for safeguarding the integrity and dignity of every individual, athlete or not. What's happening should never happen. This is a sensitive issue, and must be dealt with in an impartial and transparent manner. Pertaining authorities must take quick action in order to ensure that justice is served," he wrote.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur also issued a public statement stating that the government had heard the protesters demands and launched a full investigation into the allegations.
"I left all my programmes in Himachal Pradesh and heard them for 12 hours. Seven hours one day, over five hours the next day. We did a press conference late at night. We made a committee...The Narendra Modi government is very clear about standing with the players and helping them. For us, the priorities are the sports and the players. We won't compromise with them," Thakur said.
The protesting wrestlers had also reportedly asked to meet PM Modi to discuss the sexual harassment allegations.
"PM Modi sir talks about 'Beti Bachao' and 'Beti Padhao' and listens to everyone's 'mann ki baat'. Can't he listen to our 'mann ki baat'? He invites us to his home when we win medals and gives us a lot of respect and calls us his daughters. Today, we appeal to him that he listens to our 'mann ki baat'," Rio Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik told reporters.
In response, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh had put out a video message indirectly indicating he would fight the allegations against him.
"Friends, the day I reflect on my life, what I gained or lost, the day I feel I don't have the strength to fight, the day I feel helpless, I won't like to live a life like that. Instead of living such a life, I would wish that death embraces me," Singh said.