IOA President PT Usha visits wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar, assures help

Earlier, she had criticised the wrestlers for the protest saying that they were tarnishing the image of the country by hitting the streets.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 03, 2023 | 3:52 PMUpdated May 03, 2023 | 7:59 PM

IOA President PT Usha visits wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar, assures help

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha, who recently faced scathing criticism for being insensitive towards the wrestlers protesting over sexual harassment by officials, met the grapplers on Wednesday, 3 May, at the protest site and assured them of her support, saying she was first an athlete and then an administrator.

Former sprinter Usha had come down heavily on the wrestlers for resuming their protest instead of approaching the IOA to sort out their issues.

She had said that the wrestlers should have shown some discipline and that they had tarnished the country’s image by hitting the streets, a comment that sparked criticism against her and the IOA.

Also read: CU of Kerala to confer honourary doctorate on PT Usha

‘Assured help’

Usha left the protest site at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi without speaking with the media, but wrestler Bajrang Punia said she has assured them of help.

“Initially when she said that, we felt very bad; but then she said that her comments were misinterpreted. She said that she is first an athlete and then an administrator,” said Punia, the Tokyo Olympic Games bronze medallist.

“We told her that we want justice. We don’t have a fight with the government or Opposition or anyone else. We are sitting here for the betterment of wrestling. If this issue is resolved and if the allegations (against Wrestling Federation of India, WFI, president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) are proved, then there should be legal action,” he added.

When asked if Usha had come with a solution from the government or the IOA, Punia said, “Nothing of that sort”.

“She only said that she is with us.”

Asked if he was satisfied after the meeting with Usha, he said, “If she is giving us assurance, I suppose she should fulfil that assurance. But we clarified to her that until and unless things are not okay and we get justice, of which we are very hopeful, this protest will continue.”

Asked if any solution had emerged, he said, “If the things she has spoken about… if there is an initiative along those lines, then definitely there will be a solution to this issue. She said she will try to resolve all our problems. If she wants, she can do anything.”

Related: ‘Hurt’ wrestlers respond to ‘tarnishing image’ remark by PT Usha

Usha criticised wrestlers

Reacting to wrestlers’ resumption of protest, PT Usha, after the IOA’s Executive Committee meeting last week, had said, “Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline). Instead of coming to us, they have gone straight to the streets. It’s not good for the sport.”

IOA acting CEO Kalyan Chaubey said, “IOA President Dr PT Usha would like to say that this kind of agitation is not good for the country’s image. India has a good reputation globally. This negative publicity is not good for the country.”

Led by Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, the protesting wrestlers, who expected support from Usha, were taken aback by her response, and said that they were “hurt”.

In their second round of protests at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar after the initial one in January, the wrestlers continued the sit-in agitation for the fourth day demanding police action against WFI President and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment and criminal intimidation allegations.

(With PTI inputs)