Wrestlers protest: India's star cricketers stay incognito amid support from sporting fraternity
Despite the public support expressed by various ex-cricketers for the wrestlers, members of the national cricket team have remained silent.
NEW DELHI: While members of the 1983 cricket World Cup winning squad are the latest in the list of prominent personalities expressing support to the protesting wrestlers, active members of the men's and women's national Indian cricket team are yet to express their solidarity with the grapplers. Despite pressure and requests from their fans and supporters, the players have decided to remain silent.
Earlier today, members of the 1983 cricket World Cup winning squad, including BCCI chief Roger Binny, legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar and India's world cup winning captain Kapil Dev, issued a joint statement on Friday expressing distress at the visuals of champion wrestlers being manhandled and urged ace grapplers to not take the hasty decision of dumping their hard-earned medals into river Ganga. They added that the wrestlers' grievances will be heard and resolved quickly.
"We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard-earned medals into river Ganga. Those medals have involved years of effort, sacrifice, determination and grit and are not only their own but the nation's pride and joy," the statement read.
It added, "We urge them not to take any hasty decision in this matter and also fervently hope that their grievances are heard and resolved quickly. Let the law of the land prevail."
Several ace grapplers including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik have been demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Singh since January, accusing him of sexual harassment, alongside other issues.
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On Tuesday, Punia and Malik, both Olympic medallists, along with Phogat, a World Championship medallist, went to Uttarakhand's Haridwar to immerse their medals in the river Ganga in order to intensify their protest. However, they postponed their plan after farmer leader Naresh Tikait urged them to wait for 5 days.
"Heartbreaking that they decided to throw their medals. We aren't in favour of them throwing their medals because earning medals isn't easy and we urge the Government to sort out this issue as soon as possible," veteran cricketer Madan Lal told ANI.
The wrestlers' protest has gained significant attention from both sporting enthusiasts and the general public, with several prominent personalities and athletes from other disciplines expressing their solidarity with wrestlers.
On May 28, after the wrestlers were forcibly detained by Delhi Police while attempting to march to the new Parliament building, many expressed their anger and disappointment at the handling of the situation by the authorities.
Several prominent personalities came out in support of grapplers. Star Indian cricketer Anil Kumble said he was "dismayed" to see the wrestlers being "manhandled."
Dismayed to hear about what transpired on the 28th of May with our wrestlers being manhandled. Anything can be resolved through proper dialogue. Hoping for a resolution at the earliest.— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) May 30, 2023
The International wrestling body United World Wrestling also issued a strongly-worded statement on May 30, expressing "concern" and "worry" over the arrest and temporary detention of the protesting wrestlers, and urged authorities to "conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations."
Athletes and sportspersons from other fields too like Neeraj Chopra, Abhinav Bindra and Sunil Chhetri have expressed support for wrestlers.
Last night was sleepless, haunted by the horrifying images of my fellow Indian wrestlers protesting. It's high time we establish independent safeguarding measures across sporting organizations. We must ensure that if such situations arise, they are dealt with utmost sensitivity…— Abhinav A. Bindra OLY (@Abhinav_Bindra) May 29, 2023
Soon after the wrestlers resumed their sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in April after halting their protest in January, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president P.T. Usha visited the protest site and assured her support for the grapplers. Earlier, she had come down heavily on the wrestlers, citing a lack of discipline and criticising them for resuming their protest instead of coming to the IOA, but her comments attracted widespread criticism.
Tennis ace Sania Mirza then said in a tweet that as an athlete as well as a woman, it is too “difficult” to watch the ongoing protest and now it’s time to stand with the wrestlers in this difficult time.
“As an athlete but more as a woman this is too difficult to watch .. they’ve brought laurels to our country and we have all celebrated them, with them .. if you have done that then it’s time to now stand with them in this difficult time too .. this is a highly sensitive matter and serious allegations. I hope whatever the truth is justice is served.. sooner rather than later,” Sania Mirza had tweeted.
At the resumption of the protest, Phogat questioned the silence of the cricket community. After this, many from the community came out in strong support of the wrestlers. Among those who tweeted were ex-India pacer Irfan Pathan, former spinner Harbhajan Singh, and batsman Virender Sehwag.
Harbhajan Singh said, "Sakshi, Vinesh are India's pride. I am pained as a sportsperson to find pride of our country coming out to protest on the streets. I pray that they get justice."
(With inputs from ANI, IANS)