Grapplers protesting against the Wrestlers' Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh broke down on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar today where they were set to reportedly submerge their medals, including the ones won in the Olympics, in the river Ganga.
Visuals from the Har ki Pauri in Haridwar showed protest leaders Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat in tears and sitting silently with hundreds of other people surrounding them and protesters were chanting slogans in support. According to media outlets, the wrestlers were persuaded not to immerse their medals in the river today.
They have given an ultimatum to the Centre and will return in five days if no action is taken against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh, acccording to unconfirmed statements.
Farmer leader and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Naresh Tikait arrived at Haridwar's Har Ki Pauri and supposedly managed to talk the wrestlers out of going through with the immersion. He also took the medals with him. The BKU earlier tweeted that it would intervene and prevent the wrestlers from taking "a wrong step".
The wrestlers have also announced an indefinite hunger strike at India Gate in New Delhi. The wrestlers will not be allowed to protest there as the national monument is not a site for demonstrations and alternative places for their dharna will be suggested, police sources said
"These medals are our lives, our souls. There would be no reason to live after throwing them in the Ganga today. So, we will stage a hunger strike until death at India Gate after that," said the joint statement put out by the protesting wrestlers.
“It now feels like these medals adorning our necks have no value. First, it used to feel unthinkable to even consider returning these medals but as things stand, how do we live compromising on our dignity and self respect?” their statement read.
The wrestlers have been protesting against the WFI chief, who is also a BJP MP, demanding his arrest, since April 23. They were manhandled and forcibly detained by Delhi Police when they tried to march to the new Parliament complex in New Delhi on the day it was inaugurated.
“Do we return it (our medals) to our Prime Minister, who once called us his daughters? Our minds said no, because he never came to speak to his daughters. Instead, in the inauguration of the new Parliament building, he invited the wrongdoer (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) who turned up in a squeaky clean white garb and clicked photos everywhere. That whiteness stung us, like it was telling us he was the system,” they said in their statement.
Former Indian cricketer and coach Anil Kumble said he is ‘dismayed’ to learn about how wrestlers were ‘manhandled’ on May 28 ahead of a scheduled protest outside the Parliament building.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet said the tears of wrestlers are tears in the eyes of the whole country. The whole country is shocked, Kejriwal said, as top wrestlers prepare to immerse their medals in Ganga.