NEW DELHI: Protesting wrestlers at the Tar Mantar site in Delhi became embroiled in a scuffle with Delhi Police personnel on Wednesday-Thursday night, resulting in injuries to several wrestlers, including veteran athletes like Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. The incident occurred after an argument between the two sides turned violent within minutes. During a press conference held the following morning, the wrestlers claimed that their fight was not with the government or the opposition, but with Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Speaking at the press conference, Bajrang Punia threatened to return his medal to the government if their demands were not met. Vinesh Phogat, who was visibly emotional, narrated the entire incident and accused the police of being aggressive and abusive towards the wrestlers. Phogat also accused the police of assaulting her brother.
VIDEO | "The way they have made us suffer, I would not want any athlete to win a medal for the country," says wrestler Vinesh Phogat. pic.twitter.com/EpSk6dc3ZL— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 3, 2023
After the ruckus, the wrestlers spoke to the media. Being very emotional, Vinesh Phogat narrated the whole incident. She looked very angry. Weeping, he said, ‘Did we win medals for the sake of the country to see this day? We haven’t even eaten the food. Does every man have the right to misbehave with a woman? These policemen are carrying guns, they can kill us. Where were the women policemen? How can male policemen push us like this? We are not criminals. The policeman who was drunk hit my brother.
VIDEO | Ruckus between protesting wrestlers and Delhi Police at Jantar Mantar. More details are awaited. pic.twitter.com/AIS5zgH4My— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 3, 2023
Vinesh Phogat said, I was abused, the behavior of the police was aggressive. We had ordered beds, have given a complaint to the police in the night itself. The policeman was having a drink. The policeman was drunk. Vinesh also said that he is ready to return his medal. Vinesh also said that she will give her life along with the medal.
VIDEO | "The area is filled with water and there was no place to sleep, so we thought of bringing the cots…," says wrestler Vinesh Phogat. pic.twitter.com/TWmqxdImlR— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 3, 2023
The wrestlers have written a letter to the Union Home Ministry demanding strict action against the officials responsible for the alleged assault. They have also requested permission to bring waterproof tents, beds, gym equipment, wrestling mats, and sound systems to the protest site. The letter states that the wrestlers have been protesting peacefully for the past 11 days and were attacked by ACP Dharmendra and around 100 police personnel while arranging facilities to stay the night.
The wrestlers alleged that the ACP hurled abuses at Olympian Vinesh Phogat and that Sakshi Malik and Sangeeta Phogat were also thrashed by the police. They claimed that such attacks and insults against international wrestlers would lower their morale and confidence and bring shame to the country. The wrestlers have called on the authorities to take immediate action.
Efforts are being made to deliberately link the movement with politics, according to Bajrang Punia. He stated that the movement was for justice and that it had garnered support from everyone, including PT Usha, who had visited them the day before. Punia also accused the police of working on their own instructions and abusing the wrestlers ever since FIRs were registered against them.
The wrestlers have vowed to continue their fight for justice and have called for support from the public. The incident has sparked outrage on social media, with many calling for an immediate investigation and action against the police personnel responsible for the alleged assault.
The Delhi Police has denied the allegations made by the protesting wrestlers. A senior police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the police did not use force against the wrestlers, and that the scuffle broke out when the protesters tried to forcibly enter a restricted area near Jantar Mantar.
The official also said that the police had received complaints from local residents about the noise and inconvenience caused by the protesters, and that they had acted to disperse the crowd in accordance with the law.
The incident has sparked widespread outrage among the sporting community and the public at large. Many prominent sports personalities and activists have come out in support of the wrestlers, condemning the alleged police brutality and calling for swift action to be taken against those responsible.
In a statement, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said, “We strongly condemn the alleged assault on our Olympic and international wrestlers at Jantar Mantar. The IOA demands a thorough investigation into the matter and swift action against those responsible for this shameful incident.”
Meanwhile, social media has been flooded with messages of support for the protesting wrestlers, with many people expressing their solidarity with the athletes and calling for justice to be served.
The incident comes amid growing tensions between the sporting community and the government over a range of issues, including funding for athletes, the management of sports bodies, and the representation of athletes in decision-making processes.
The protesting wrestlers have vowed to continue their agitation until their demands are met. “We will not back down until justice is served,” said Bajrang Punia. “We will not rest until those responsible for this attack are held accountable.”