‘Justice for India’s daughters bigger than Asiad medal’

Vinayak Padmadeo

New Delhi, April 30

Top wrestler Bajrang Punia today said winning the battle to get justice for female grapplers in their sexual harassment case against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh would be ‘bigger’ than winning an Asian Games medal.

Bajrang, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik have been sparring on the roads near Jantar Mantar in order to keep in shape after they began their dharna there. But they are severely constrained: They are doing physical exercises without a gym, and are unable to have practice bouts because they were not allowed to bring their wrestling mats to Jantar Mantar. All this is taking them away from peak fitness and readiness they need in order to compete in the trials for the Asian Games. After staying away from two ranking tournaments, Bajrang, Vinesh and Sakshi have had no tournament exposure since January.

Bajrang, meanwhile, suffered a fracture and missed the Asian Championships, while Sakshi and Vinesh skipped the tournament due to lack of preparation. So there is a big question mark on the state of their preparedness for major tournaments.

Fight for justice

Bajrang today said they are training to stay fit, but the fight for justice is bigger than for medals. “We want to play and train for the Asian Games. We train here as and when we can but getting justice for India’s daughters will be a bigger medal for me than the Asian Games,” Bajrang said.

The wrestlers reiterated that they would continue the protest until they get ‘justice’. “We have full faith in the judiciary and Supreme Court. This is a battle for justice for India’s daughters. We will continue this struggle till we get justice. We are in this for the long haul and it does not matter how long we have to stay here,” he added.

Both Bajrang and Vinesh again targeted Singh for trying to tarnish their protest. Bajrang called him out for getting his family members elected in both the WFI executive and state associations, and Vinesh said Singh is being feted by the media.

‘Criminal past’

“Brij Bhushan has claimed that we want to take over the federation. Everyone knows about his criminal past. He was in touch with Dawood Ibrahim as well,” said Bajrang. “He has admitted on camera to murdering a man. As far as taking over the federation is concerned, the rule to be able to seek election is that if someone wants to hold an office in the federation, he has to hold a post in a state association. We don’t want to rule the federation but it is Brij Bhushan who wants to control the federation. His son is the president of the UP Wrestling Association while the secretary is his brother-in-law. In Bihar, his son-in-law holds a post. All parivaarvaad is happening from his end, but he is accusing us of parivaarvaad! The entire country is our family.”

“Please don’t allow a man like Brij Bhushan to use your platform,” Vinesh appealed to the media. “He has money, so he can run a Twitter trend in his favour. I would request you to be sympathetic towards us. If the Supreme Court decision comes against us, please feel free to garland him. Every day we see that he is being garlanded, but what has he done to deserve that?”

The day FIR was filed against him, he activated his IT Cell to run a defamatory campaign against us. But justice cannot be served on the basis of his tweets. We trust the Supreme Court to deliver justice — Bajrang Punia

You should have attended the function (Mann Ki Baat) and asked the PM why he is ignoring us. People of this country are listening to our mann ki baat. They are our strength — Vinesh Phogat

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