Wrestlers return without immersing medals into the Ganga

Supporters gather at Har Ki Pauri ghat where protesting wrestlers arrived to immerse their medals in the Ganga. PTI photo

Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat returned from Haridwar after being convinced not to immerse their Olympic, World Championships, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medals in the Ganga. This came after intervention from leaders of the farmers union (BKU) and khap panchayats who sought five days to address their grievances.

The wrestlers had arrived at Haridwar's Har Ki Pauri at 6PM to immerse their medals in the Ganga in protest of police inaction against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, former president of the WFI, as they had announced earlier in the day. With a large crowd surrounding them, and amidst heavy police presence, they remained at the site for just over one and a half hours; sitting in distress holding their medals on the banks of the river.

The site was heavily crowded as Tuesday is the day of Ganga Dussera and that meant a lot of people were on the banks of the Ganga to offer prayers.

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.

"It is unfortunate that those who represented the nation in top international tournaments that they are forced to take such decisions. The government should have some shame and give justice to them," Khap leader Balwant Nambardar said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police said on Tuesday that the wrestlers will not be allowed to protest at India Gate as it is a "national monument and not a site for demonstrations". As part of Sakshi Malik's earlier statement, the wrestlers had said they would go on a fast at the monument after immersing their medals. Sakshi had said, "India Gate is the place of those martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the country. We are not as holy as them but our emotions while playing at the international level are similar to those soldiers."

Earlier, on Sunday, May 28, On May 28, Delhi Police had detained the protesting wrestlers and later filed FIRs against them for violation of law and order. Unprecedented scenes of police dragging the Olympic and world championships medal-winning players were witnessed when the wrestlers and their supporters breached the security cordon ahead of their march towards the new Parliament building for the planned women's 'Mahapanchayat'.