Facing criticism from all quarters for being insensitive towards the protesting wrestlers, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president P.T. Usha on May 3 met them at the protest site and assured the grapplers of her support, saying she was an athlete first and then an administrator.
Former sprinter Usha had come down heavily on the wrestlers for resuming their protest instead of approaching the IOA regarding their issues.
She had said that the wrestlers should have shown some discipline and that they had tarnished the country’s image by hitting the streets, a comment that attracted criticism for her and the IOA.
Ms. Usha left without speaking with the media but wrestler Bajrang Punia said she assured them help.
“Initially when she said that, we felt very bad but then she said that her comments were misinterpreted. She said that she is first an athlete and then an administrator,” the wrestler said.
“We told her that we want justice. We don’t have a fight with the government or [the] Opposition or anyone else. We are sitting here for the betterment of wrestling. If this issue is resolved and if the allegations [against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh] are proved then there should be legal action,” he added.
When asked if Ms. Usha had come with a solution from the government or from the IOA, Mr. Punia, “Nothing of that sort.”
“She only said that she is with us.” Asked if he was satisfied following the meeting with Ms. Usha, he said, “If she is giving us assurance, I suppose she should fulfil that assurance. But we clarified to her that until and unless things are not okay and we get justice, of which we are very hopeful, this protest will continue.”
Asked if any solution had emerged, he said, “If the things she has [spoken] about... if there is an initiative along those lines, then definitely there will be a solution to this issue. She said she will try to resolve all our problems. If she wants she can do anything.”
Reacting to the wrestlers having resumed their protest, Ms. Usha had said, after the IOA’s Executive Committee meeting last week: “Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye [there should be some discipline]. Instead of coming to us, they have gone straight to the streets. It’s not good for sport.”
IOA acting CEO Kalyan Chaubey had said, “IOA president Dr. P.T. Usha would like to say that this kind of agitation is not good for the country’s image. India has a good reputation globally. This negative publicity is not good for the country.”
This had earned Ms. Usha the criticism that she lacked understanding for the wrestlers’ point of view despite being a former athlete and a woman herself.