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Wrestlers begin mat training, sit-in enters third week


The protesting wrestlers began mat training after a gap of 15 days as the stir entered its third week on Monday. Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, two-time World Championships bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat, and Rio Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik were among the wrestlers who went to the Railways’ Karnail Singh Stadium in the morning. Their hour-long mat session was supervised by Dronacharya awardee Sujeet Mann, who is Punia’s personal coach.

Bajrang Punia with Sakshi Malik during their ongoing protest against the alleged sexual harassment of players by WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi(Ishant)
Bajrang Punia with Sakshi Malik during their ongoing protest against the alleged sexual harassment of players by WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi(Ishant)

While Punia sparred with his regular partner Jitender, Vinesh hit the mat with cousin Sangeeta and later with Malik.

“It was a light session, but we will continue to train in the morning,” a coach in the know of things said.

“Ideally, they should be practicing twice a day but the evening sessions are out of the question. They are under a lot of physical and mental stress due to the protest and their diet has also taken a big hit. We will try and do the best we can,” he added.

The trials for this year’s Asian Games are expected in the middle of next month and the protesting wrestlers have repeatedly expressed their desire to continue competing.

“Our training has taken a hit, for sure. We have put our careers on the line, but if this sacrifice helps us get justice, we have no problem,” Phogat said.

The 28-year-old two-time Olympian had, on Sunday, said that the wrestlers are in the process of finalising a workable training plan that can be executed alongside the sit-in. The wrestlers, in the first week of their protest, did some bodyweight exercises and dry training on the Jantar Mantar road after their request to bring training mats to the protest site was repeatedly denied by the Delhi Police.

Meanwhile, discussions are underway to move the senior men’s and women’s national camps to the capital’s Indira Gandhi Stadium. The suggestion came up during the marathon IOA meeting on Monday where the ad-hoc panel formed to run the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) was also represented.

The proposal from IOA will be sent to SAI this week and a final call is expected by early next week. The ad-hoc panel, it is understood, is also keen on conducting the Asian Games trials next month and WFI polls before June 15.

No progress on legal front

There is no official word on the legal recourse that the wrestlers intend to take. Having been advised by the Supreme Court to approach the lower courts, the wrestlers are still in consultation with the 31-member committee, comprising mostly of khap leaders and representatives of farmer organisations.

“The statements of victims under Section 164 of the CrPC are yet to be recorded. We urge the Delhi Police to at least record the statements properly so that a fair investigation can be conducted,” Phogat said.

Meanwhile, some of the seven wrestlers on whose complaints two FIRs were lodged against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, are being relocated, it has been learnt.

“Some of the complainants are being relocated for security reasons. The details can’t be made public at this stage, but things are moving with due process,” a member of the wrestlers’ legal team said on condition of anonymity. Delhi Police refused to comment on the topic citing the ongoing investigation.

The protest venue witnessed a steady flow of supporters from various farmer and labour organisations throughout the day, although the crowd was nowhere near the 5000 as predicted by Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s Baldev Singh Sirsa a day earlier. The Delhi Police stepped up the barricading the border areas and by evening, the crowd at the protest venue had thinned out considerably.

The police welded the barricades at the site after a group of farmers had broken through the barriers in the morning. The group was later escorted to the protest site by the Delhi Police.


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