Several Sports Icons Come Out in Support of Protesting Wrestlers; PT Usha Faces Flak
New Delhi: Award-winning Indian wrestlers have taken to the streets at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, demanding justice over the #MeToo allegations made by them against the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. This is the second time the wrestlers have had to take to the streets, demanding action against the WFI chief, who is also a ruling BJP leader and Lok Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. The allegation against him have been made by multiple top female wrestlers, backed by their male counterparts.
Even as the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court, the Delhi Police, which had so far not even registered an FIR against the WFI chief, informed the top court that it would do so on Friday istelf.
Ace Indian grapplers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and many others, are involved in the protest against the WFI chief. Over the last four days, the wrestlers have slept and trained at the protest location. On Wednesday, they held a candle march at Jantar Mantar in the national capital as they continued their protest against the WFI and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The protests continue, and on Wednesday, Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra supported the wrestlers in their protest with a poignant tweet. Bindra tweeted, "As athletes, we train hard every day to represent our country on the international stage. It is deeply concerning to see our athletes finding it necessary to protest on the streets regarding the allegations of harassment in the Indian wrestling administration. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected."
Neeraj Chopra, the ace javelin throw athlete, took to Twitter and admitted that his heart breaks seeing the wrestlers taking to the streets in search of justice. He wrote, "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."
Many other athletes took to Twitter and expressed solidarity with the protesting wrestlers, and urged authorities to conduct a fair probe and serve justice. Sania Mirza, a former tennis player, tweeted, “As an athlete but more as a woman this is too difficult to watch.. they’ve brought laurels to our country and we have all celebrated them , with them .. if you have done that then it’s time to now stand with them in this difficult time too .. this is a highly sensitive matter and serious allegations.I hope whatever the truth is justice is served.. sooner rather than later.”
Similarly, Nikhat Zareen, a two-time world champion, tweeted, “It breaks my heart to see our Olympic & World medallists in this state. Sportspeople also serve the nation by bringing glory & laurels.
I sincerely hope & pray that the law takes its own course and justice is served at the earliest
Ace Cricketer and Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) Harbhajan Singh tweeted, “Sakshi, Vinesh are India's pride. I am pained as a sportsperson to find pride in our country coming out to protest on the streets. I pray that they get justice.
India's first One Day International (ODI) World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev also supported wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar.
However, other than a handful of athletes coming out supporting the protesting wrestlers, Twitter users were quick to point out the silence of other powerful athletes like Mary Kom, who is also parliamentarian, and ace cricketers, such as Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar.
PT Usha Faces Flak
Meanwhile, P T Usha, a former athlete, President of the Indian Olympic Association and Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), strongly criticised the wrestlers' protest as a "negative approach" that is "tarnishing” the country's image.
"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," she had said.
Usha’s insensitive comments triggered a sharp reaction from several protesting athletes and politicians. Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia said, “PT Usha has been our icon. We felt hurt by what she said. I want to ask her - when her academy was being demolished and she had raised her concerns on social media, then was that not tarnishing India's image?”
“If PT Usha had faced such harassment, would she have responded like this? She should ask this question to herself. We can't expect much from a sports administrator who speaks like this under pressure. She herself is crying in front of the media about conspiracy,” said Vinesh Phogat.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also slammed the country's Olympics body chief PT Usha. “Dear @PTUshaOfficial, it is does not become you to disparage the justified protests of your fellow sportspersons in the face of repeated & wanton sexual harassment. Their standing up for their rights does not “tarnish the image of the nation”. Ignoring their concerns — instead of hearing them out, investigating them & taking just action — does,” Tharoor tweeted.
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