Members of the 1983 World Cup winning cricket team, on Friday, came out in support of the protesting wrestlers and urged them not to take any hasty decision while hoping that players’ issues will be “heard and resolved”.
In a joint statement, the 1983 triumphant team said it was distressed and disturbed after seeing the visuals of wrestlers being manhandled but also hoped that law of the land will prevail.
Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, who have been demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual exploitation of women wrestlers, took their protest to Haridwar on May 30 but did not carry out the threat of immersing their medals into river Ganga.
On May 28, the Delhi Police had detained the wrestlers for violation of law and order when they marched towards the new Parliament building without permission.
The police also cleared the protest site and made it clear that the wrestlers will not be allowed back at Jantar Mantar. The police action against the wrestlers had invited criticism from different quarters.
“We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard earned medals into river Ganga,” a statement released to PTI by the 1983 World Cup wining team read.
“Those medals have involved years of effort, sacrifice, determination, and grit and are not only their own but the nation’s pride and joy. We urge them not to take any hasty decision in this matter and also fervently hope that their grievances are heard and resolved quickly. Let the law of the land prevail,” the statement further read.
Under legendary skipper Kapil Dev, the Indian cricket team had humbled the mighty Clive Lloyd led-West Indies to win the country’s first World Cup trophy.
“I am not going to say anything individually, the whole of 1983 team stands by the statement we have issued,” Kapil said.
The other members of the 83 batch include Roger Binny, who is now BCCI president, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, K. Srikanth, Syed Kirmani, Yashpal Sharma, Madan Lal, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Sandeep Patil and Kirti Azad.
The World Cup final was played at the Lord’s on June 25, 1983.
Among other former Indian cricketers, Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan have shown solidarity with the elite wrestlers. The active cricketers are yet to comment on the controversy.
Reigning Olympic champion in javelin throw, Neeraj Chopra and India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, shooter Abhinav Bindra have also expressed anguish that wrestlers were forced on to the streets while demanding justice.
Meanwhile, some of the reported allegations made by female wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh are shocking and disturbing. They include groping, demanding sexual favours, asking inappropriate personal questions and stalking. These allegations are listed in the two FIRs filed at Connaught Place police station, after the intervention of Supreme Court on April 28.
Reports state that Singh has been booked under IPC sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking) and 34 (common intention). He has also been booked under Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the first FIR comprises allegations of six adult wrestlers and also names WFI secretary Vinod Tomar. The second FIR is based on the complaint of a minor’s father and also invokes Section 10 of the POCSO Act, which entails five to seven years of imprisonment.
One wrestler also said that she informed PM Narendra Modi about the matter. “I informed the Prime Minister about the repeated sexual, emotional, physiological, physical trauma which was meted upon me and other female wrestlers by the accused, in conspiracy with his close aids to which, the Prime Minister reassured me that such grievances will be looked into by the Sports Ministry and I will shortly be getting a call from the Sports Ministry.”
Another wrestler said that the athletes would move around in groups to avoid running into Singh alone. “He used to forcefully, and against the wishes of the female athletes, try to separate them from their group and then ask inappropriate personal questions.”