Olympians Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Mallik have announced that they will be relinquishing the prestigious medals they have won over the years.
The wrestlers have said that they are going to Haridwar to offer their medals to the Ganga, and will sit on a fast unto death at India Gate in Delhi afterwards.
“We’ve been wondering why we won Olympic and World Championship medals for the country. Did we win them so the country could treat us so badly? They first dragged us, and then branded us as criminals,” the wrestlers have said in a statement released on social media, written in Hindi.
The above statement alludes to the ‘mahila mahapanchayat’ that was thwarted by the Delhi Police on 28 May. The wrestlers had planned a ‘mahapanchayat’ in front of the new Parliament building, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi the same day. The police did not allow that demonstration to take place and detained all the protesting wrestlers.
Photographs of sportspersons being dragged on the streets in the backdrop of the new Parliament had then gone viral on social media. The police later filed an FIR against the champions and other organisers, invoking sections of the Indian Penal Code including rioting and unlawful assembly, as well as the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act
The wrestlers had been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for 35 days, demanding the immediate arrest of Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
“We couldn’t return our medals to the President, since she didn’t speak for us. We can’t return them to the prime minister, who doesn’t care about his daughters. So we’re headed to Haridwar, to immerse these precious medals in the holy river,” the statement reads, “the medals are sacred for the entire country, and the holy river is the best place to keep these sacred honors of the country.
The wrestlers say that the medals are their heart and soul, and that there will be no meaning left to their lives once they immerse them in the river. “Since there will be nothing left to live for, we’ll sit on a fast unto death at India Gate after immersing our medals in the Ganga,” they said.