Vinesh outrage prompts stars to lend their voice: Pained, hope for justice
A DAY after World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat questioned the lack of support from other sportspersons, Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra and several other top sportspersons on Friday lent their support to the wrestlers protesting against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The country’s first-ever track and field Olympic gold medalist, Chopra said he was hurt to see athletes having to demand justice by protesting on the streets.
“They have worked hard to represent our great nation and make us proud. As a nation, we are responsible for safeguarding the integrity and dignity of every individual, athlete or not,” he tweeted.
Vinesh, who is at the forefront of the protests, had told The Indian Express during an Idea Exchange programme that she expected her fellow athletes to “at least put up a neutral message and say there should be justice for whichever party. This is what pains me… Be it cricketers, badminton players, athletics, boxing…”
Soon after Chopra’s show of support, former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh, world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen, former hockey captain Rani Rampal and multiple Grand Slam winner Sania Mirza were among those who extended solidarity to the wrestlers, who have been on a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi since Sunday.
Harbhajan, an AAP Rajya Sabha MP, said it hurts him to see the pride of India coming out to protest on the streets. “Sakshi, Vinesh are India’s pride. I am pained as a sportsperson to find the pride of our country coming out to protest on the streets. I pray that they get justice. #IStandWithWrestlers,” he wrote on Twitter.
Later in the evening, AAP minister Atishi met the wrestlers and promised them support. With Phogat insisting that they will continue the protest until Singh was arrested, AAP has promised to provide food, water and electricity for the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu said he will be joining the wrestlers’ ‘satyagraha’ on Monday. In a tweet, the Congress leader called the delay in filing of the FIR a “tear on the cheek of time in Indian history”.
Star Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Much before this wave of support, India’s two sporting greats – former cricketer Kapil Dev and Olympic gold winning shooter Abhinav Bindra – had thrown their weight behind the wrestlers.
On Thursday, Kapil Dev posted a picture of Vinesh, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, with a caption: “Will they ever get justice?”
Bindra’s post said: “My heart goes out to all those who have been affected. We must ensure that this issue is handled properly with athletes’ concerns heard and addressed fairly and independently.”