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Junior wrestlers blame Punia, Malik and Phogat for career setbacks; protest at Jantar Mantar (WATCH)

Originating from diverse regions such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi, the junior wrestlers voiced their dissatisfaction, linking their setback to the performances of elite wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat.

Junior wrestlers blame Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat for career setbacks; protest at Jantar Mantar (WATCH) snt
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First Published Jan 3, 2024, 1:31 PM IST

In a surprising turn of events, the historic Jantar Mantar square in New Delhi witnessed a gathering of hundreds of junior wrestlers from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi. These young athletes, representing various wrestling academies, voiced their discontent against the perceived role of top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat in what they consider a crucial setback in their wrestling careers.

The protest marks a significant shift from the events of nearly a year ago when Punia, Malik, and Phogat accused the former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment. During that time, the trio garnered widespread support from different sections of society. However, the current protest reflects a growing dissatisfaction among junior wrestlers who blame Punia, Malik, and Phogat for the suspension of national camps and competitions since January 2023.

The protesters, arriving in buses from wrestling academies like Arya Samaj Akhara in Chhaprauli, Baghpat, and Virender Wrestling Academy in Narela, raised slogans against Punia, Malik, and Phogat. Banners with messages like 'UWW save our wrestling from these 3 wrestlers' were displayed, indicating the dissatisfaction with the top athletes.

Since January 2023, national camps and competitions in wrestling have been suspended due to the two-time suspension of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). An ad-hoc panel, appointed by the sports ministry, currently oversees wrestling affairs. The protesters at Jantar Mantar demanded the restoration of the suspended WFI and the disbandment of the ad-hoc panel, holding Punia, Malik, and Phogat responsible for the halted training and competitions.

The unexpected protest reveals internal turmoil within the wrestling community and raises questions about the future of the sport in India. While Punia, Malik, and Phogat were once celebrated for their courage in speaking out against harassment, they now face allegations of hindering the progress of junior wrestlers.

As the wrestling community in India grapples with internal conflicts, the protest at Jantar Mantar serves as a stark reminder of the complexities within the sport. The allegations against top wrestlers have not only fueled discontent among junior athletes but have also cast a shadow over the future of wrestling in the country. It remains to be seen how the authorities and stakeholders address these concerns and work towards restoring harmony within the Indian wrestling community.

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