By Chetan Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 20 (SocialNews.XYZ) 'The bugle has already been sounded, now's the time to gird up for an epic war'. Holding placards, several junior wrestlers -- girls and boys - are gathered here at Jantar Mantar in support of their icons from the past two days. As the day progresses, the crowd gets thick.
How long this fight between top wrestlers of the nation and WFI will continue is still unknown, but each passing day is hampering India's preparations for the upcoming major competitions -- World Championship, and Asian Games to name a few.
According to wrestling pundits, the government must sort out the issue ASAP before it gets out of hand!
More than 30 wrestlers including Olympians Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia took to the streets to publicly accuse their fe'eration's chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh -- who is also a lawmaker for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party -- and other coaches of sexual misconduct.
They started a protest at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, which entered its third day on Friday, and nobody knows how long it will go! But as per wrestlers, till their demands are meant.
Daily talks are taking place between government officials and the wrestlers but no concrete result has materialised. The wrestlers also met Sports Minister Anurag Thakur late on Thursday night, however, that meeting also failed to yield results.
IANS spoke to Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik to know about their next move. The Haryana wrestler, meanwhile, also shared the basic issues protesting wrestlers are facing.
Q: This is a crucial year for Indian wrestlers as there are qualifiers for the Paris Olympics, and then there is the Asian Games as well. How much is this affecting you mentally and physically as each passing day is important?
A: You are already seeing the effect. It's the third day and how mentally or physically tortured we are. We slept around 4 am and then got up early. We don't have proper sleep or food. I do not remember when was the last time we ate food properly. But this fight is important for wrestling. It is a request to our Prime Minister and Home Minister to fulfil our demands as soon as possible so that we can start our training for the upcoming tournaments and win medals for the country.
Q: You all are top wrestlers who have made India proud in several competitions, but now you have been forced to come on the roads and protest for justice. How disheartening it feels as an athlete.
A: It's really sad that well-known wrestlers are sitting here on the road, leaving their training and putting their careers at stake. It's the third day that we are going to sit in on a protest, for a matter which should be solved just by communicating it once.
Q: You are demanding the sacking of WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and also the federation be dissolved. What more do you have to say about it?
A: We all want this federation to be dissolved and a new federation to be formed that includes people who know wrestling. All the people who are in the federation have no knowledge about wrestling. They used to make rules on their own and break them of their own will. We are now not scared of anyone...we are protesting against WFI to protect the sport. We are getting support from everywhere. Many women wrestlers are supporting us.
Q: How is this fight against the federation and its president going to help young women wrestlers in India?
A: If we win this fight, not only women but the entire wrestling sport is going to benefit and Indian wrestling will reach new heights. If this fight ends in our favour then youngsters won't be suppressed like we were.
Q: You all met Sports minister Anurag Thakur on Thursday night. How was your meeting? Did he give any assurance? What's next in your mind?
A: We don't have anything to say at this moment. We will continue with on protest today and will see what solution emerges.