New Delhi: In the backdrop of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ chants at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in the national capital, some of India’s top wrestlers stood outside at the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, claiming that they were not allowed to enter and watch the IPL 2023 game between Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings.
“We had come to watch the match. Five of us, with five tickets. They checked our tickets and told us they wouldn’t let us through,” said World Championship medalist Vinesh Phogat. “They told us it would be a security issue and that they’d seat us in a VIP area. We told them, ‘No, we want to watch the game from the seats we have tickets for.’”
The protesting wrestlers are demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh after seven women wrestlers, including a minor, filed complaints at the Connaught Place police station on April 21. When the police didn’t file an FIR they started their sit-in protest on April 23, the second since January.
Three prominent wrestlers — Vinesh, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik — were at the stadium wearing white t-shirts that read, ‘I support wrestlers’. They had tickets for the ‘East Stand ground floor’ entry which is from gates 8 and 10 at the Kotla.
“At first, they didn’t give us our tickets back. We kept arguing with them, telling them that we want to watch games from our seats. We’re normal people, we want to watch the game from normal seats. When we were returning, they stopped us again. They’re neither letting us go in nor leave the stadium,” Vinesh said as the group was surrounded by security personnel.
“I don’t know why they are creating an issue. We’re just wearing our white shirts to watch the game here. We’re doing nothing illegal. This is our right,” Vinesh said.
Police deny allegations
However, the Dehli Police tweeted saying anybody with valid tickets or passes was allowed to enter the stadium.
“Some social media handles are circulating misleading news regarding wrestlers being barred from watching IPL matches. No valid ticket or pass holder has been stopped at Ferozeshah Kotla ground, everyone has been given entry through their assigned gates,” the Delhi Police handle tweeted.
Speaking to the media after returning to Jantar Mantar from the Feroz Shah Kotla ground, Bajrang said, “We wanted to watch Dhoni, today his last match (league stage). They stopped us saying we are celebrities, there is a security issue.”
Bajrang said the results would appreciate it if active cricketers like Dhoni supported their fight for justice.
“We would welcome it if Dhoni supports our fight for justice,” Bajrang said.
Vinesh also criticised attempts to play down the protest as one of the disgruntled wrestlers with an agenda.
“People should not try to play down our protest, this is a fight for justice for women. When it comes to women’s issues, it should not take a second to take action. If Olympic medalists have to sit in protest, then imagine what the common citizen has to go through. This is not about a state or a caste. If women can’t get justice, there is no point talking about the progress of a country,” Vinesh said.
Candlelight march at India Gate
On the one-month anniversary of the sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar, the protesting wrestlers have decided to have a candlelight march at India Gate, Bajrang confirmed.
“23rd will mark the one-month anniversary of starting the protest. I think this will be the first POCSO case where no action is being taken. On May 23rd we will be doing a candlelight march against Brij Bhushan Sharan. We request all citizens to participate also,” he said.
The next course of action will be announced on Sunday after a maha panchayat of khap leaders and farm unions.
“Whatever our elders tell us we will listen to them,” Bajrang confirmed.