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Please listen to our ‘Mann Ki Baat’: Wrestlers to PM Modi

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New Delhi, April 26 (PTI): “Why are you not listening to our ‘Mann Ki Baat’,” the protesting wrestlers asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and sought his time to discuss the sexual harassment allegations against his party’s MP and WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The wrestlers continued to receive support from politicians and farmers’ organisations as former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik visited the protest site and said it was a matter of shame that athletes who are honoured in the country for their success are now fighting for justice on the streets.

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Country’s top wrestlers resumed their agitation against the wrestling federation’s chief on Sunday, three months after they ended their sit-in protest following the formation of an oversight committee to probe into the serious allegations.

The Sports Ministry has not yet made public the findings of six-member oversight panel that submitted its report on April 5.

The wrestlers said they are surprised that PM Modi felicitates them and clicks pictures with them when they win medals but now he has turned a blind eye to their plight when they are on road, seeking justice.

“PM Modi sir talks about ‘Beti Bachao’ and ‘Beti Padhao’, and listens to everyone’s ‘mann ki baat’. Can’t he listen to our ‘mann ki baat’? He invites us to his home when we win medals and gives us a lot of respect and calls us his daughters. Today, we appeal to him that he listens to our ‘mann ki baat’,” Rio Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik said during a media interaction.

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Interestingly, Malik drew analogy with Prime Minister’s popular radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, which is completing 100 editions and to mark the milestone, several programs are being organised by the government.

“I want to ask Smriti Irani (Union Minister) why is she silent now? It’s been four days that we are sleeping on road, enduring mosquito bites. We are not being allowed (by Delhi Police) to prepare food and train, why are you silent? I just want to say that you come here, listen to us and support us,” added Sakshi.

Sakshi felt maybe their point is not reaching the Prime Minister.

“Maybe our truth is not reaching him, so we want to meet him and let him know our issues.”

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An emotional World championship medallist Vinesh Phogat said,”we don’t have the (telephone) numbers (of relevant people) by which we can reach out to him so we are appealing to PM Modi through media to raise issues. Maybe he can then listen to our cries. Our souls are almost dead, maybe he will notice.”

“He does his program ‘Mann ki Baat’ but has he, even for a minute, given a thought to our ‘mann ki baat, how much dilemma, does he think we face that daughters of the nation are sitting on the roads and are on the cusp of quitting wrestling by standing against a big criminal?”

Satya Pal Malik, who was the last Governor of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, said he spoke to Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia on Tuesday night and promised to visit them at the protest site.

“When our daughters win medals and unfurl the tri-colour, at that time very shamelessly, we invite them for tea to honour them and to click pictures with them, and today they are on road. We should drown in shame,” Malik said.

“I appeal to all of you that you support them till their fight ends and this gathering should get bigger and bigger,” Malik said while addressing the gathering as wrestlers continued to get support from various quarters.

The wheel-chair bound Malik said it was unfortunate that women wrestlers are being asked to provide evidence of sexual exploitation.

Vinesh also said that they will take out a candle-light march later in the evening.

“Maybe the authorities can’t see, so we will take out a candle light march to offer some light. Maybe they can see that daughters of India, who are not just wrestlers but represent the feelings of many women, are out on the road.”

Tokyo Games bronze medallist Bajrang also appealed to the PM.

“These are daughters of India appealing to you, please do justice with them,” he said.

“We had brought wrestling mats for practice but we were not allowed, even we can’t prepare our food here because there is no permission. Now, will we have to take permission even for breathing,” asked Bajrang.

As the protest entered its fourth day since resumption on Sunday, the wrestlers, under watchful eyes of coach Sujeet Mann, began training at the protest site itself.

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sangeeta Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Satyawart Kadiyan all began training at 7:30am and the session went on till 8:45am.

Asked if it’s not risky to train on roads as it could lead to injuries to wrestlers, coach Mann said, “We have no option.”

“It’s out of compulsion that we are forced to train on road. What do we do? It’s a year of Asian Games and World Championships, which is Olympic Qualifier, the wrestlers can’t be out of line,” Mann told PTI.

“There is no equipment, gym or mat, so whatever little we can do under the circumstances, we are doing. I asked them to run and we also did some man-to-man technique practice. We also have some dumbbells here, ” he explained.

Bajrang on his part, also added that efforts are being made by WFI chief’s men to scare them.

“A few people are trying to discourage us and scare us by narrating stories how Brij Bhushan got an adversary killed. But let me tell you that we are not going to get scared.”

Vinesh also appealed to all athletes, across disciplines, to stand united with them.

“Can’t we put behind greed, fear and self interest behind? I appeal to all sports persons of the nation, Olympic medallists, national medallists and world championship medallists to come together and stay united.

“If we come together, there is no reason why we can’t be number one nation in Olympics one day.”

Hours after Vinesh’s appeal, Olympic champion shooter Abhinav Bindra took to social media to announce his solidarity with the athletes.

“As athletes, we train hard every day to represent our country on the international stage. It is deeply concerning to see our athletes finding it necessary to protest on the streets regarding the allegations of harassment in the Indian wrestling administration,” Bindra tweeted.

Early in the day, the Delhi Police told the Supreme Court that a preliminary probe was needed before it can proceed with the registration of an FIR against the WFI chief.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police, that if the top court felt that an FIR was to be lodged straightaway then it may be done.

“However, the police felt there are some issues which needed preliminary inquiry  before the registration of the FIR,” the top law officer said.

“You know Solicitor we also don’t do something without hearing the other side and unless we have some material. Please furnish the material which you have on Friday. We took it up as this involves a minor etc,” the CJI said.

The law officer said let an impression be not created that the FIR has not been registered despite the court asking for it.

The bench took note of the submissions of Mehta, and said Delhi Police may put forth their views on registration of the FIR on April 28 when the plea of wrestlers will be heard.

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