Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that she spoke over the phone to the wrestlers protesting in Delhi, asserting her support for and solidarity with them and criticising the saffron regime for their ill-treatment.
The Bengal chief minister, who has repeatedly issued statements endorsing the protest by the wrestlers, said she was appalled that Wrestling Federation of India president — BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh — was yet to be arrested.
Singh has been accused by the wrestlers, including a minor, of sexual misconduct.
“Our nation’s wrestlers are being beaten up, facing harassment… so much so that our nation’s pride has been dashed to the ground,” said Mamata during a news conference at Nabanna, the state secretariat.
“I spoke to the wrestlers this afternoon (Tuesday), in solidarity, and offered them our full support,” added the Trinamul Congress chief. “The medals they won are a matter of great honour for the nation, which they won on the basis of their own performance. They should continue with their movement, we are with them,” she said.
The Bengal chief minister also announced a protest march in Calcutta to be held on Wednesday, led by sports personalities and organised by state sports minister Aroop Biswas.
“It will be a solidarity march, from Hazra crossing to Rabindra Sarovar… to offer full support to the protesting wrestlers,” she said.
The latest chapter to the long tale of the protesting wrestlers’ suffering was added by Delhi police, which on Sunday roughed up several of them, pushing some of them to the ground before dragging them away and detaining them. The police action unfolded barely 1.5km from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new “temple of democracy”.
Without going into specifics, Mamata apparently contrasted the inauguration of the new Parliament complex that was replete with Hindu rituals and the inhuman treatment meted out to the wrestlers.
“Puja-path tabhi hota hay jab manvikta ka puja hota hay (Prayers and rituals are meaningful only when humanity is worshipped). (They) make a huge show of puja-path (worship) externally, but internally go about breaking hearts… both cannot coexist,” said the Trinamul chief.
The wrestlers' protest gained yet a major wave of sympathy after Sunday’s police crackdown, with pictures being widely circulated on social and mainstream media.
Mamata was one of many Opposition leaders to speak out against the alleged police excesses.
“Strongly condemn the way Delhi Police manhandled Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and other wrestlers. It’s shameful our champions are treated in this manner,” the Bengal chief minister tweeted on Sunday. “Democracy lies in tolerance but autocratic forces thrive on intolerance and quelling of dissent. I demand they be immediately released by police. I stand by our wrestlers."
In response to a question on protesters announcing their willingness to throw all the medals they have won into the Ganga, Mamata said she wasn't in a position to comment on it.
“Their decisions are their decisions… we support them. They have been tortured so, so much, and were made to turn so hostile,” she said.
“Even a Supreme Court order was not adhered to,” Mamata said. “A man (referring to the BJP MP) goes about physically assaulting women — I don’t know exactly what he did — and even the apex court ordered an FIR against him. But he is yet to be arrested. Is this how a nation is run?”