After Naresh Tikait's Intervention, Protesting Wrestlers Decide Not to Immerse Medals in Ganga

According to reports, the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader gave a "five-day ultimatum" to the government to act on the demands of the wrestlers.

Dehradun: The wrestlers who had come to Haridwar on Tuesday, May 30, returned without throwing their medals into the river Ganga after the intervention of Bhartiya Kisan Union and farmer leader Naresh Tikait. The medals were also handed over to Tikait, who had reached Haridwar in a bid to persuade the wrestlers from immersing their medals in the river. He gave a five-day ultimatum to the government to act on the demands of the protesting wrestlers.

Tikait said that the Union government is “saving one man”, referring to Singh, adding that there will be a khap meeting on Wednesday.

The wrestlers were removed from their protest site in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on May 28, when they were planning to march to the new parliament building. They had been protesting there for 35 days against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), after accusing him of sexual harassment of several female athletes – including a minor.

The Delhi police have registered two FIRs against Singh, but he has not yet been arrested, which is unusual for a case that involves the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The wrestlers themselves are facing cases for their foiled bid to march towards the new parliament.

They said on Tuesday morning that as a mark of protest against the goverment’s protection of Singh, they would throw the medals into the Ganga. “These medals are our lives, our souls. There will be no reason to live after throwing them in the Ganga today. So, we will stage a hunger strike until death at India Gate after that,” they said in a statement.

Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, along with world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat, came to Haridwar to immerse their medals on Tuesday afternoon. They were accompanied by their family members and supporters.

But the Ganga Sabha – a body of purohits and pandas of Haridwar – which manages the Ganga Aarti and affairs at the famous Har ki Pauri ghat, had announced that they would not allow the wrestlers to throw their medals in Ganga.

Tanmay Vashisht, an office bearer of the Ganga Sabha, said that they would not allow the wrestlers to use the place “to do politics and protest”. He said the wrestlers can go to any other ghat on River Ganga to immerse their medals.

Meanwhile, some Hindu religious leaders in Ayodhya – including Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, the successor to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das who is chairman of Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust – came out in support of Singh on Monday. “Innocent people are being harassed by misusing the POCSO Act. Fake allegations are being levelled against them, especially seers, mahants and politicians,” Das claimed.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the Ganga ghat, holding placards and raising slogans against Brij Bhushan Singh. The supporters also appealed to the wrestlers not to throw their medals into the Ganga.

The women wrestlers, visibly emotional, sat in a pensive mood on the banks of the river on the occasion of the Hindu festival of Ganga Dusshera, when thousands of pilgrims were present for Ganga ‘Aarti’.