Bajrang Punia, India’s top wrestler, said on Thursday that wrestlers are willing to return the medals they have won for the nation over the years to the government if police continue to disgrace them. This statement was made hours after a fight broke out between wrestlers and Delhi Police at the Jantar Mantar protest site.
Punia alleges that drunk cops manhandled wrestlers late on Wednesday night when they wanted to bring in folding beds to the protest site. “If the honour of the medal is like this, what will we do with this medal? It is better that we lead a modest life and return the medals, we have won, to the Government of India. Police do not see that he is Padma Shri. At that time they didn’t honour that award. They were drunk and mistreated wrestlers by pushing and abusing,” Punia told reporters at the Jantar Mantar protest site.
Some of India’s top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Mallikh, have been protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment, demanding his arrest. Singh, the six-time MP has denied the allegations.
On Wednesday, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha met the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar.
Usha, a retired Indian track and field athlete and a Rajya Sabha MP, had earlier ruffled feathers with her remarks that the wrestlers should have approached the IOA instead of hitting the streets against the WFI and its president.
“Indian Olympic Association is having a committee for sexual harassment, instead of going to the streets they (protesting wrestlers) could have come to us earlier but they did not come to IOA. It is not good for sports not only for wrestlers, they should also have some discipline,” the IOA president told reporters last week, a remark that didn’t go down well with the wrestlers.