The ongoing crisis in Indian wrestling escalated on Wednesday (3 January) as hundreds of junior wrestlers gathered at Jantar Mantar to express their discontent over the loss of a pivotal year in their careers.
They blamed this setback on top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat.
The junior wrestlers, hailing from various regions of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi, arrived in buses, taking the police by surprise.
Nearly 300 participants hailed from Arya Samaj Akhara in Chhaprauli, Baghpat, while a significant number also arrived from the Virender Wrestling Academy in Narela.
Many are still packed in buses and they plan to deboard and join their colleagues when more wrestlers arrive at the landmark protest site, PTI reported.
The security personnel struggled to control them as they shouted slogans against Punia, Malik and Phogat.
The protesters were carrying banners that read: 'UWW save our wrestling from these 3 wrestlers'.
In a twist of irony, the same protest location was the scene nearly a year ago where the three leading wrestlers successfully rallied significant backing for their cause.
They had demanded the arrest of the former WFI chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they accused of sexually harassing female wrestlers.
Thousands of people from different sections of society, including farmers groups, social workers, politicians, women's groups and members of the wrestling fraternity, came out to support Malik, Phogat and Punia.
The three are now facing protests from within their community with those assembled at Jantar Mantar, accusing them of ruining their careers.
Since January 2023, national camps and competitions have been on hold as the WFI has been suspended twice and an ad-hoc panel is running the sport.
The demonstrators on Wednesday called for the reinstatement of the suspended WFI after disbanding the ad-hoc panel which has been appointed to run the sport by the sports ministry.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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