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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

Brij Bhushan behind wrestler versus wrestler protest, threat calls to mother: Sakshi Malik

Amid the ongoing crisis in Indian wrestling, a large number of junior wrestlers on Wednesday assembled at Jantar Mantar and protested against the loss of a crucial year in their career, blaming the country’s top grapplers — Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh — for the situation

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 04.01.24, 07:53 AM
Sakshi Malik addresses the media at her residence in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Sakshi Malik addresses the media at her residence in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI picture

Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik on Wednesday said “goons” of former Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Singh were making threat calls to her mother and accused the BJP MP of sponsoring and mobilising protests against her and fellow grapplers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat.

Amid the ongoing crisis in Indian wrestling, a large number of junior wrestlers on Wednesday assembled at Jantar Mantar and protested against the loss of a crucial year in their career, blaming the country’s top grapplers — Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh — for the situation.

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They accused the three wrestlers, who have been the face of the earlier protests against Brij Bhushan accusing him of sexual harassment, of ruining the future of those aspiring to pursue the sport.

Young wrestlers hold placards during a protest against wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Wednesday

Young wrestlers hold placards during a protest against wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Wednesday PTI photo

Around 300 junior wrestlers from different parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi reached Jantar Mantar in Metro trains and buses on Wednesday morning and shouted slogans against Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh. They demanded that the WFI, which has been suspended following the controversy over the election of an alleged Brij Bhushan loyalist as his successor, be restored after disbanding the ad hoc panel that has been appointed to run the sport by the sports ministry.

“I have given years of my life to wrestling and retired recently, so you can tell how stressed I am mentally. There is an IT cell of Brij Bhushan Singh on social media. These protesters are his men and are running propaganda for him. Brij Bhushan was behind mobilising and sponsoring this protest,” Sakshi said at a media conference.

“Goons of Brij Bhushan are active. My mother is getting threat calls. Our safety is the government’s responsibility,” she added.

A fortnight ago, a tearful Sakshi announced her retirement from wrestling in protest after Sanjay Singh, a “loyalist” of Brij Bhushan, won the election for WFI president.

Later, expressing solidarity with Sakshi, Bajrang, another Olympian, returned his Padma Shri and left it on the footpath near Rajpath. Women’s World Championships medallist Vinesh also kept her Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards in the middle of the road on Rajpath.

Last year several top men and women wrestlers had protested at Jantar Mantar for weeks against Brij Bhushan, then WFI chief, accusing him of sexually harassing women wrestlers.

On May 28, Delhi police, who report to the Union home ministry, had roughed up the country’s top wrestlers including Sakshi, Bajrang and Vinesh and dragged them away from their Jantar Mantar protest site while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new Parliament building.

“We knew Brij Bhushan is influential but we did not know he was so powerful that he and his aide would declare nationals from his residence without discussing with anyone. Now we are being accused of spoiling the wrestling careers of the juniors. I have taken sanyas from wrestling. I want junior girls to fulfill what I could not. I want them to win silver, gold for the country. I don’t want any junior to suffer like us,” Sakshi said on Wednesday.

“We have no problem with the new federation or the ad hoc committee. We only have a problem with Brij Bhushan’s aide Sanjay Singh,” Sakshi said.

Since January 2023, national camps and competitions have been on hold as the WFI has been suspended twice and an ad hoc panel is running the sport.

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