Union sports minister Anurag Thakur today accused the protesting wrestlers of “changing goalposts” and in the government’s first comment on the issue in recent days, reiterated that they should not take any step that “hurts the sport or other athletes”.
“The athletes themselves had said that the platform is not for doing politics. But later political parties came and went and shared this platform,” the minister told reporters today, refering to the visits by opposition leaders to the wrestlers’ protest site in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
Declaring he would not comment on it, the minister added, “I’ll ask the athletes to wait for the conclusion of Delhi Police’s investigation. The Delhi Police has informed the Supreme Court and filed an FIR (First Information Report). Until the investigation is complete, do not take any step which will harm the sport and the players”.
This was the government’s first comment on the issue since the champions were manhandled by the Delhi Police on Sunday, when they tried to hold a protest near the new parliament which was inaugurated that day by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Visuals of Vinesh Phogat, Olympian Sakshi Malik and others being pushed and pulled and pinned to the ground by Delhi Police personnel, had shocked the nation. The police later filed a case against the wrestlers and closed the Jantar Mantar protest site to them.
In absence of any intervention or comments from the government, the wrestlers had gone to Haridwar yesterday to consign their medals to the river Ganga. But they postponed their decision after requests from farmer leader Rakesh Tikait. Mr Tikait and farm and khap leaders have sought five days to resolve the issue.
Mr Thakur today said the government had accepted the wrestlers’ demand for a committee to probe the issue and removed the federation chief against whom they were protesting.
The government, he added, has spent crores on training of the athletes and the improvement of sports infrastructure. Even now, the Wrestling Federation of India is working on the directions of the Indian Olympics Association, he said.
The wrestlers have been on the warpath since January, demanding action against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they accused of sexually harassing seven athletes, including a minor.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP who has denied any wrongdoing, today asserted that would accept any punishment if the allegations against him were proven.
“If a single allegation against me is proven, I will hang myself. If you (wrestlers) have any evidence, present it to the Court, and I am ready to accept any punishment,” he said.