India’s first two individual gold medals at the Olympics, Abhinav Bindra and Neeraj Chopra, led some of the country’s greatest sportspersons in expressing their support for the wrestlers protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and Asian and Commonwealth Games medallist Vinesh Phogat are currently leading the protest against the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him and some coaches of sexual harassment.
The top Indian sportspersons that have come out in support of the protesting wrestlers include reigning World Champion in boxing Nikhat Zareen, cricketers Bharbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag, Grand Slam-winning tennis player Sania Mirza and former women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal.
All of them on Friday put out tweets supporting the protesting wrestlers as #IStandWithWrestlers was trending for most of the day.
Abhinav Bindra, the first Indian to win an individual gold in the 10m air rifle at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing 2008, was the first top sportsperson to tweet in support of this issue.
“As athletes, we train hard every day to represent our country on the international stage. It is deeply concerning to see our athletes finding it necessary to protest on the streets regarding the allegations of harassment in the Indian wrestling administration. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected. We must ensure that this issue is handled properly, with the athletes’ concerns heard and addressed fairly and independently,” said Bindra.
India’s Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra joined him in highlighting the plight of the grapplers, who are spending day and night at Jantar Mantar.
“As a nation, we are responsible for safeguarding the integrity and dignity of every individual, athlete or not. What’s happening should never happen. This is a sensitive issue, and must be dealt with in an impartial and transparent manner,” said Chopra.
“Pertaining authorities must take quick action to ensure that justice is served,” he added.
Fellow Tokyo Olympic Games medallist, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, who won a silver medal in the 2020 Olympic Games in wrestling, said: “Soldiers and sportspersons are the pride of the country and to give respect to both of them is our responsibility,” he tweeted.
Nikhat Zareen was among the top boxers that came out in support of the grapplers.
“It breaks my heart to see our Olympic & World medallists in this state. Sportspeople also serve the nation by bringing glory & laurels.
I sincerely hope & pray that the law takes its own course and justice is served at the earliest. Jai Hind,” Nikhat wrote in her tweet on Friday.
“Sakshi and Vinesh are India’s pride. I am pained as a sportsperson to find pride in our country coming out to protest on the streets. I pray that they get justice. #IStandWithWrestlers,” said cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who is also a Member of the Parliament (MP).
India’s legendary opener Virender Sehwag said the wrestlers are protesting over a sensitive issue and hoped that they will get justice.
“It’s very disappointing that our champion wrestlers who have won laurels for the country and have given us so much happiness, are out in the street protesting injustice,” said Sehwag.
Sania Mirza, the winner of multiple women’s doubles titles at Grand Slams, said she was supporting the wrestlers as a fellow woman.
“As an athlete but more as a woman this is too difficult to watch…they’ve brought laurels to our country and we have all celebrated them, with them .. if you have done that then it’s time to now stand with them in this difficult time too .. this is a highly sensitive matter� Show more,” said Sania.
Former India opener and politician Navjot Singh Sidhu said it was shocking that nine women complained but no FIR has been registered.
“Shocking that 9 women of recognition complained & no FIR is registered. it’ll be a tear on the cheek of time in Indian history…… �Any country that insults its women icons is hurting its own pride, these women have brought laurels to the nation. They have given wings to the aspirations of millions,” he tweeted.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrestler Geeta Phogat, whose cousin Vinesh is at the forefront of the protest, took Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president P.T Usha to task for criticising the wrestlers.
“A person is facing such serious allegations but no action has been taken against him and no FIR registered and you (P.T Usha) are calling the wrestlers as indisciplined?” Geeta tweeted claiming that she was very disappointed with Usha’s stand on this issue.
Former captain of the women’s hockey team, Rani Rampal said the wrestlers deserve justice. “Extremely painful to see our renowned wrestlers demanding justice on the streets of India. It tears me apart to see my fellow athletes in this situation who have worked hard in their lives and won great laurels for our beloved country,” said Rampal.