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Protesting wrestlers slam apathy of ‘politicians’ Usha, Mary

Wrestling

Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik question Delhi Police not conducting investigations on FIRs they filed against federation boss Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

With the Delhi Police yet to question outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over the sexual harassment first information reports (FIRs) with the next Supreme Court hearing two days away, the protesting wrestlers on Tuesday expressed anger on the delay in investigation.

They also expressed shock that Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha, a former track great, and its Athletes Commission (AC) chairperson MC Mary Kom, a boxing icon, have “abandoned” them.

Usha last week said the wrestlers should have shown more discipline while Mary, who also headed the sports ministry’s oversight committee that submitted a report into the sexual harassment complaints, has not commented on the current protests. The AC is yet to reach out to the wrestlers with its members saying a public statement to express solidarity with the protestors was blocked at the drafting stage.

“This has been a taxing battle, but what has hurt us most is the way we have been treated by people like PT Usha and Mary Kom,” Sakshi Malik, the Rio Games bronze medallist, said. “It’s a matter of deep concern and shame that former athletes of such standing can’t support us. Such adversities give us strength. We don’t want them to sit with us. We just want them to be truthful.”

Usha and IOA joint secretary Kalyan Chaubey, the football federation president, had criticised the wrestlers that they were bringing disrepute to the country with their sit-in protest. Usha is a BJP-nominated Rajya Sabha MP and Chaubey is a BJP member since 2015. Mary, a six-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, was nominated to RS by BJP in 2016.

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“I have been hearing since my childhood that a politician can’t be trusted. They (Usha and Mary) have proved it. These are the people I grew up watching and aspired to become. Probably I was destined to learn the ways of the world this way.

“I always looked up to Usha. Growing up, we wondered if we will ever be able to see people like Usha, Sachin Tendulkar, Sania Mirza, etc., in flesh. If a woman athlete doesn’t understand your pain, it hurts even more,” Malik said.

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia also criticised Usha.

“Usha must realise she got her IOA post because of her sports achievements, but she has become a thorough politician now,” he said.

The wrestlers slammed the delay in the police investigation.

“The police is yet to summon Brij Bhushan for questioning. The complainants have not been asked for their statements. What kind of investigation is this?” Malik asked. It was the tenth day of the sit-in.

Punia said: “Singh keeps saying he welcomes the investigation and trusts the court and police. If he is that serious, he should come to Delhi and surrender. There are two FIRs lodged against him.”

Singh continued his media comments against the protesting wrestlers, accusing them of shifting goalposts and reiterating that he would resign if found guilty.

Singh has completed a maximum three four-year terms as WFI president and is ineligible for re-election under the government’s sports code. An IOA ad-hoc committee has been mandated with deciding on the fresh elections.

“The police investigation is going on but these people want me hanged already. If they don’t trust the Delhi Police probe, maybe they should ask for a CBI investigation. If any of their allegations are proven right even at the investigation stage, I will happily resign,” he told India TV.

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Singh had on Monday alleged that the protests were politically motivated, pointing to the political leaders visiting the sit-in. Punia dismissed his comment as a “wild, baseless allegation’ and Malik said it was an attempt to break their resolve.

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