Political support for the ongoing protest by wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh widened on April 28, with several Opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, expressing solidarity with their cause.
Former Haryana Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh had met the protesters at the Jantar Mantar on April 25. His son, Deepender Hooda, followed suit on April 28. Mr. Deepender hit out at Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president P.T. Usha for “failing” to get justice for the wrestlers.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat also went to the protest site on April 25 in a sharp departure from January when the wrestlers, then staging a similar sit-in, requested her to leave the dais saying they did not want their protest to get politicised.
While several politicians took to social media on April 28 to back the wrestlers, some landed up at the protest site in person. Among them were Trinamool MPs Dola Sen and Aparupa Poddar, who visited the site in the evening after party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted in the morning demanding that the “guilty” must be brought to book “irrespective of their political affiliation”. “We must all stand with the wrestlers who are protesting... Our sportspersons are the pride of our nation. They are champions. The guilty must be brought to book, irrespective of their political affiliation...,” she tweeted.
AAP leaders and Delhi Cabinet Ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj also met the protesters and took aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Modiji, you should be ashamed. If our daughters who bring respect to the country have to protest on the streets, then not even a single daughter is safe under your rule. Stop standing with rapists,” Ms. Atishi said, assuring the wrestlers that the AAP, the Delhi government, and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal would fight alongside them. The party later said in a tweet that they would fight against the “rapists” of the BJP.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted against the Delhi Police’s reticence in filing a sexual harassment FIR against the wrestling federation chief. “These are Olympian wrestlers who have done India proud. We have applauded, hailed & feted them when they won medals & brought India glory. It’s a shame that we cannot deliver them Justice,” he said. RLD leader Jayant Singh also weighed in, tweeting, “Our top wrestlers were on the streets in January & should have been heard when they first spoke about abuse. P T Usha’s comments [that the protest amounted to indiscipline] in poor taste!”
CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam issued a scathing letter to Sports Minister Anurag Thakur questioning the government’s commitment to its slogans of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and “Khelo India”. “These sportspersons are inspirational to thousands of young people and the treatment being meted out to them is sure to discourage our younger generations from taking up sports,” he wrote.
While the protest snowballed, Mr. Thakur, away in Leh to attend the Y-20 pre-summit meeting under G-20, said he had met the wrestlers and formed a probe committee.
“More woman members were included in the committee for the ease of women wrestlers. We asked IOA to form an ad hoc committee to look into day-to-day affairs of WFI,” he said.