Protesting wrestlers to immerse medals in Ganga, launch hunger strike

Wrestlers said they will now launch an indefinite hunger strike at the India Gate

NEW DELHI | Updated: 30 May, 2023 1:59 pm IST
Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi (File photo by Sumit Kumar)

NEW DELHI: Escalating their month-long stir, wrestlers protesting against India’s wrestling body chief over alleged sexual harassment have announced to immerse their medals, including those bagged at the Olympics, into Ganga in Haridwar on Tuesday evening.

The announcement was made by Sakshi Malik, one of the three top wrestlers leading the agitation, two days after they were detained by the Delhi Police and their tents removed from Jantar Mantar.

In an emotional statement, Malik said that she and her fellow wrestlers brought laurels for the country at global competitions but were treated like criminals by the Central government which, they said, is shielding Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

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“The disheartening truth is that we now question the value of holding onto these medals. There was a time when the mere thought of returning them would have been agonizing, but our self-respect cannot be compromised,” wrote Sakshi, adding that the final decision has to be taken by the common public.

She further said: “This has led us to a difficult question: to whom should we return these medals? Should we return them to our president, a woman in power? Our conscience tells us otherwise, as she sits a mere 2 kilometers from our protest site, yet she has remained silent.”

“Then we thought about our Prime Minister, who referred to us as his own daughters? Once again, our conscience resists. He has shown little concern for our plight, instead inviting the perpetrator to the inauguration of the new parliament. The sight of him posing for the cameras in a pristine, white attire was deeply unsettling, as if he were proclaiming himself as the embodiment of the system,” the statement reads.

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Malik said that they believe that just as the Ganga is revered as a purifying force, their medals carry the essence of their dedication and hard work.

She also said that after immersing their medals, they will launch an indefinite hunger strike at the iconic India Gate.

Delhi Police have vowed not to allow the protesters to resume their protest at Jantar Mantar, but said they were open to allocating an alternate place for the protest.

Apart from Malik, her colleagues Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia were detained by policemen on Sunday when they attempted to march towards the newly inaugurated parliament building at the time of its inauguration by PM Modi.

The Delhi Police have lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against the protesters, accusing them of rioting and causing harm to public servants. The FIR states that the protesters breached barricades and ignored repeated warnings to maintain distance from the parliament during the inauguration ceremony.

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