Wrestlers’ protest day seven: the battle continues

Brij Bhushan says protest orchestrated by a political-industrialist nexus, claims wrestlers want preferential treatment which is refuted by Vinesh and Bajrang

April 29, 2023 07:31 pm | Updated 07:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik address a press conference during their protest against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday, April 29, 2023.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik address a press conference during their protest against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday, April 29, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Amidst rumours of his resigning and wrestlers accusing him of pressurising them to end their protest and the Delhi Police of high-handedness, beleaguered Wrestling Federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh finally spoke to the media, saying it was orchestrated by a political-industrialist nexus.

Denying any plan to resign — a cosmetic move more than anything else given the incumbent WFI board has been replaced by an Ad-hoc committee and Singh himself declaring he won’t contest the next elections — the strongman from Gonda also accused the wrestlers of wanting preferential selection for international events, something denied by Vinesh Phogat.

“I have been wrestling since 2009 and in the 14 years since then, I have only skipped four national championships. I can list them — first was after the Rio Olympics because of injury, then before the Tokyo Olympics because of Covid, then after Tokyo because of depression and treatment and then last year after the World Championships. I don’t consider myself special to demand any such thing. Bajrang (Punia) is a bigger athlete than me and even he never skips trials.

“He says we want to go directly for international competitions but I have never gone out without proving myself at home. No one is bigger than the country. But this fight is for respect and justice,” Vinesh, running a slight fever and a sore throat, declared.

Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Deepender Singh Hooda with wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sangeeta Phogat and Sakshi Malik at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday, April 29, 2023.

Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Deepender Singh Hooda with wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sangeeta Phogat and Sakshi Malik at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday, April 29, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Even as Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi visited the protest site, the wrestlers last night claimed that police had disconnected their electricity. “They are not allowing food, water or mats inside, trying to break us. And this is not about competition or participating, it is about sexual harassment, why doesn’t he answer that? He has also said he knows what statement and complaint the minor has made, how is that possible? And we are still asked to trust the police and committees,” Bajrang questioned.

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