Protesting wrestlers denied security, skip Bishkek ranking series
Days after demanding security for themselves along with seven complainants, the protesting wrestlers were turned back by Delhi Police’s personal security officers (PSOs) when they appeared at Jantar Mantar on Sunday evening.
Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia was offered two personal security officers (PSOs), while two-time world championship bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat was assigned one.
Phogat’s husband Somveer Rathi, one of the protesting wrestlers, said, “The PSO arrived on Sunday but we refused security as we did not feel threatened at Jantar Mantar.”
Punia reiterated the stance. “If we are not safe at Jantar Mantar, where else can we be safe?” he said on Monday.
However, in their press conference on 28 April, the wrestlers demanded security for the seven complainants and themselves, citing the criminal history of the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Punia had said, “Brijphushan has a long criminal history. We want protection for the complainants and for ourselves.”
Last week, the 29-year-old claimed to have met some unidentified people at the protest site, who allegedly tried to intimidate her and talk her into calling off the agitation.
Delhi Police provided security to all the complainants on Sunday.
Another ranking series is missing
Meanwhile, after missing the Zagreb and Alexandria Ranking Series in February and the Senior Asian Championships in Astana last month, Punia, Phogat and Rio Olympic bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik will miss the Kaba Ulu Kozhomkul and Ratbek Sanatbaev Ranking Series in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan next month. Will not play
The Bishkek Ranking Series, to be held between June 1–4, is the third of four ranking series of the year. The final ranking series will be held in Budapest in July. Monday, May 1, was the last day for the WFI to send the team list to the organisers.
The federation is currently being run by an ad-hoc committee constituted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on 27 April. The three-member panel includes Wushu Association of India president Bhupendra Singh Bajwa and national rifle coach Suma Shirur. The third member of the committee – a retired High Court judge – is yet to be appointed.
A WFI official said, “The protesting wrestlers were contacted by the IOA to check their availability, while the other wrestlers were contacted by the federation. The team will be a carbon copy of the team that went to the Asian Championships “
Punia later confirmed that the protesting wrestlers would not take part in the competition. “We will miss the Bishkek ranking series. We are in no condition, shape or form to compete. We are out of practice and our minds are set to compete right now,” he said as the wrestlers’ strike entered the ninth day. I don’t have room.” ,
Punia on Sunday claimed that getting ‘justice’ for the aggrieved wrestlers would mean more to him than winning a medal at the Asian Games.
In his absence, the freestyle 65kg category will be represented by Anuj Kumar, who was ousted at the quarter-final stage in Astana. Sakshi Malik’s 62kg category will be occupied by Sonam Malik, who won a bronze medal at the Asian Championships.
Astana silver medalist (53kg) eventual Panghal—considered a worthy challenger for Vinesh Phogat–will be another notable absentee from the Bishkek programme. The Jats of Madhya Pradesh will take their place.
Tokyo Games silver medalist Ravi Dahiya, who last graced the mat at the World Championships in September where he was ousted in the first round, is expected to compete in the Kyrgyzstani capital.
Dahiya injured his right knee during a practice session in February and suffered grade 2 tears in the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Since the ranking series allows a national federation to send three wrestlers in one weight category, Dahiya and Asian Championships gold medalist Aman Sehrawat have been included in the 57kg category by the WFI.
“Ravi will go for the Bishkek ranking series. He has started technical training on the mat and will start wrestling from next week,” said his coach Lalit Kumar at the Chhatrasal Stadium.
“We are also planning to send Ravi and Deepak Punia to Russia for an exposure competition this month,” the coach said.
While Punia and Phogat last competed at the World Championships in September where they won bronze, Sakshi Malik’s most recent competitive appearance was at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in August where she won gold.