- Written by Merrill Sebastian
- BBC News
India’s top wrestlers have said they will throw their medals into the Ganges, the country’s holiest river, as part of their ongoing protest.
They are also planning an indefinite hunger strike at India Gate – a war memorial in the capital, Delhi.
The wrestlers are calling for the resignation and arrest of the president of their federation, whom they accuse of sexually harassing the wrestlers for years.
He has denied all charges.
“These medals are our life and our soul,” the two wrestlers said in a statement on Tuesday. “We feel there is no point in having these medals around our necks anymore.”
Among the contenders are Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punya, two-time World Championships medalist Finch Phogat.
The wrestlers said they initially considered returning their medals to the president and prime minister but were disappointed that they did not speak about or inquire about the protests even once (the two leaders did not make any public statements about the protests).
After we put them on [the medals] In the Ganges, there would be no sense for us to live. So we will come to the Gate of India and sit fast until death.”
On Sunday, Malik, Puniya and Phogat were among the many detained as they tried to walk towards India’s new parliament building as part of their protest.
They were stopped by the police and taken away from the area in buses. The incident occurred just a few miles from the new parliament, which Modi was inaugurating at the time.
Pictures of the athletes being dragged and bussed went viral, drawing criticism from top athletes and opposition politicians.
In their statement on Tuesday, the wrestlers denounced the police action against them and said they were treated like “criminals”.
“Did female athletes commit some crime by demanding justice for the sexual harassment committed against them?” they asked.
Delhi Police filed cases including riots against the wrestlers. They also removed the protest site at Jantar Mantar, a heritage site in Delhi.
The athletes started their protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, on April 23.
Singh, an influential politician and member of parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, denied all allegations and described the protests as politically motivated. He has been questioned by the Delhi Police, but has yet to be arrested.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said on Monday that wrestlers were not prevented from demonstrating at their designated places in Delhi.
He said the appropriate action will be taken in the case as soon as the Delhi Police finished their investigation. The minister also asked wrestlers who did not provide statements to the police to do so.
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