Heavy rains across New Delhi over the past two days have led to the number of supporters for the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar dwindling but the core group has shown no signs of ending their sit-in.
Rain over the past two days has led to the mattresses earlier placed on the pavement being stacked under cover and ropes and tarpaulin sheets were used to create temporary rain shelters under which the wrestlers could avoid getting wet.
According to media reports, late on Sunday night, Bajrang Punia reportedly appealed to supporters to leave, saying that it would be the core group of wrestlers who would continue the protest through the night in the rain.
Bajrang, along with Vinesh Phogat and Sakshee Malik also turned down the security cover offer after they were provided with personal security officers (PSOs) by the concerned area's Assistant Commissioner of Police
They are also set to miss another international tournament after they refused to compete at the Ranking Series wrestling event in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from June 1 to 4. The trio cited the protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as reason for pulling out.
“This protest is far more important for us than participating in any wrestling championships. We are needed here and not on the wrestling mat. We didn't give our names for the ranking series because Singh is still roaming around freely and hasn't been arrested,” Bajrang Punia said.
Since the protest resumed on April 23, politicians such as Congress party's Priyanka Gandhi and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary, former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, Delhi government ministers Atishi Singh and Saurbah Bhardwaj have all visited the protest site.
Punjab Congress leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, recently released from prison, visited Jantar Mantar yesterday and farmers’ agitation leader Rakesh Tikait came out to support the wrestlers today. However, there were fewer high-profile supporters, TV crews and cameras and police personnel at the protest site due to the weather.
The wrestlers resumed their protest on April 23 after a brief agitation in January was concluded after the sports ministry set up an Oversight Committee (OC) to look into the allegations of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and suspended the federation. They say they relaunched the protest after a delay in the submission of the OC’s report, a loss of faith in the panel, and lack of action in the three months.
Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan said that all activity in the sport had come to a standstill in the last four months due to the protests by the country's top wrestlers. The WFI chief added that he is ready to be "hanged" but wrestling activity, including national championships and camps, should not stop as it would be detrimental to the cadet and junior wrestlers.