Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik announced that they will throw their Olympic, World Championship and other medals into the Ganga river in Haridwar on Tuesday evening and go on a fast unto death at the India Gate. The wrestlers shared a note on their social media that they are taking this step after the incidents on Sunday.
On May 28, they were forcefully arrested and detained by the Delhi Police. The wrestlers had called for a 'Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat' around the same time as the inauguration of the new Parliament Building on Sunday and breached the security cordon set up by the police, which resulted in their detention.
Their statement read, "The question arose as to who we return the medals to. Our President, who is also a woman? Our minds said no, because she is just 2km away from us and hasn't said anything. Our Prime Minster, who called us his daughters, didn't consider his daughters' senses and wisdom, and instead invited our harasser to the inauguration of the new parliament building. He was taking pictures there in shiny new clothes. Where is our place in this shiny system? Where is the place for India's daughters? Have we just become tools for slogans and agendas?
"We don't want these medals anymore because we're made to wear these as a mask for their politics and we're exploited. When we speak against that exploitation, they make preparations to put us in jail. We will throw the medals in the Ganga, because she is Mother Ganga. We consider the Ganga as sacred as the hard work we put in to win these medals. These medals are sacred to the entire nation, and to keep them sacred, the best place is Mother Ganga, and not the system, which makes us their mask and makes us stand with our harasser."
They also added, "We're wondering why we won these medals. Did we win them so that the system could behaves with us like this? They attacked us and then made us the culprits. It seems that the medals hanging around our necks have no meaning left. The thought of returning our medals felt like death, but what's there to live for after compromising with our self-respect?
- Bajrang Punia ���� (@BajrangPunia) May 30, 2023
"These medals are our lives, our souls. Our lives will have no purpose once the medals are washed away in the Ganga. That's why we will sit on fast unto death at India Gate. India Gate is the place of our martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country. We are not are pure as them, but while competing at the international level our feelings were also like those soldiers. The unholy system is doing its work and we will do ours. People will have to think whether they want to stand by these daughters of the nation or with the system which is harassing these daughters."
Special Commissioner of Police (law and order) Dependra Pathak claimed the protesters ignored repeated requests and warnings and "wrestled" with police personnel who tried to stop them. The police then filed an FIR against the wrestlers and others who participated in the protest under section 188, section 186, section 353, section 332, section 352, section 147 and section 149 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
India's top-most wrestlers have been protesting at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar for over four weeks against former Wrestling Federation of India chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers have been demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan, who has been accused of sexual harassment of seven women athletes, including a minor.
The Delhi Police have filed two FIRs -- one related to the complaints of a minor wrestler under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act -- against Brij Bhushan, and the investigation is still on.