Wrestlers return without immersing medals in Ganga

Wrestlers reach Haridwar to throw their Olympic and world championship medals in Ganga on Tuesday. (UNI)
Wrestlers reach Haridwar to throw their Olympic and world championship medals in Ganga on Tuesday. (UNI)


On a drama-filled Tuesday, some of India’s best wrestlers accompanied by hundreds of supporters gathered here on the banks of the Ganga, threatening to immerse their World and Olympic medals in the holy river but refrained after being convinced by Khap and farmer leaders who sought five days to address their grievances.
Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat arrived at Har ki Pauri to protest the inaction against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has allegedly sexually harassed several women grapplers.
Sakshi, Vinesh and her cousin Sangeeta were seen sobbing as their husbands tried to console them, even as scores of their supporters formed a cordon around them.
The wrestlers stood for about 20 minutes in silence after reaching Har ki Pauri. They then sat on the banks of the river holding their medals and looking distressed.
Bajrang joined them after 40 minutes. Sombir Rathi, husband of Vinesh, was holding the Asian Games medals won by her wife. Sakshi was holding tightly the framed Olympic bronze medal she had won in 2016 in Rio.
The whole episode was reminiscent of the 1960 incident when the legendary Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio river to protest racial segregation in the US.
However, after spending an hour and 45 minutes, they returned after several khap and political leaders urged them not to take such an extreme step.
As the deadline for the immersion of the medals drew closer, senior farmer leaders Sham Singh Malik and Naresh Tikait sought five days’ time from the grapplers to resolve the issue.
“The khap leaders put their turbans before us and said ‘do not lose hope’. Keep the dignity of the turban and return. So we decided to wait,” said wrestler Jitender Kinha, who has been a part of the protesting group.
There were chaotic scenes at the Har ki Pauri as khap and farmer leaders broke the human chain of supporters to reach out to the grapplers, even as thousands of devotees, who had gathered on the occasion of Ganga Dussehra, looked baffled as commotion reigned supreme.
The wrestlers left without speaking with the media.
Several other khap leaders and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also came out in support of the wrestlers but urged them to show restrain. (PTI)