Ace athlete and Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha on Wednesday met wrestlers protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and assured them of support in their agitation against Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, reported PTI.
Last week, Usha had stoked a controversy when she said that the wrestlers’ protest on the street showed they were indisciplined.
Since April 23, several wrestlers, including Olympic and Commonwealth Games medalists, have been staging a sit-in protest demanding Singh’s resignation and legal action against him for allegedly sexually harassing several sportswomen. The Delhi Police have filed two first information reports against Singh, but he has refused to step down from his post in the wrestling body.
On Wednesday afternoon, Usha told the wrestlers that she was an athlete first and then an administrator, Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia said, according to PTI.
“Initially when she said that [Usha’s previous comments], we felt very bad but then she said that her comments were misinterpreted,” Punia said. “We told her that we want justice. We don’t have a fight with the government or opposition or anyone else. We are sitting here for the betterment of wrestling.”
However, when asked if Usha had offered a solution to the matter from the government, Punia said: “Nothing of that sort... she only said that she is with us.”
Usha herself refused to speak to reporters, according to PTI. A video on social media showed her walking away from protestors after one of them confronted her and accused her of insulting women.
Usha and Indian Olympic Association Joint Secretary Kalyan Chaubey last Thursday had said that an ad-hoc committee has been formed to govern the Wrestling Federation of India so that the day-to-day activities of the sport are not affected. She insisted then that the protesting wrestlers should have addressed their concerns to the association before taking to the streets.
“Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline). They should come to us earlier. Instead of coming to us they have gone straight to the streets. It’s not at all good for sport,” the former sprinter said.
Then they were asked if the wrestlers are setting a wrong precedent by engaging in these protests for which Usha insisted they had to come to the Indian Olympic Association first.
Chaubey then added, “What Dr. PT Usha would like to say again and again is that this kind of agitation is not good for the country’s image. India is the fifth largest economy in the world and has a good reputation globally. This negative publicity is not good for the country.”
Usha then is heard saying, “Yes, it’s not good for the country.”
Punia reiterated that the wrestlers will continue to protest till Singh in put in jail, and said that Usha should fulfill her promise to support them.
“We clarified to her that until and unless...we get justice, of which we are very hopeful, this protest will continue,” the wrestler said. “...She said she will try to resolve all our problems. If she wants she can do anything.”
The protests by the wrestlers first started on January 18 at the same venue of Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The wrestlers had called off the agitation after talks with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur. However, as no action was taken against Singh for more than three months, they resumed their agitation.