Bhopal: “Path of righteousness quite difficult to walk on, but has less commotion, so do what’s right”

Bhopal: “Path of righteousness quite difficult to walk on, but has less commotion, so do what’s right”

Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia speaks about fight against WFI chief and wrestlers skipping international meets

Minal TomarUpdated: Monday, February 27, 2023, 10:35 AM IST
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Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia |

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): The basic tenets of a wrestler are that they stick to their roots and words. Recent example of this is Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia, who follows this principle not only in letter but also in spirit. "We might not be protesting at Jantar Mantar, but we still stand by what we said; hence, we will not participate in any tournament till the probe is completed and a conclusion is drawn in our clash against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh," said the Olympian in an exclusive interview with the Free Press. He also spoke about his 2024 Olympics target. Excerpts,

FP: Why aren’t wrestlers participating in international tournaments even after President Brij Bhushan stepped down from his post?

Our fight against the WFI and President Singh is still going on; we might not be protesting at Jantar Mantar, but we are protesting in a way that we will not participate in tournaments till the probe is concluded and we get unbiased justice.

FP: What was the breaking point that led the wrestlers to protest?

BP: This dictatorship of the federation has been going on for the last few years, but we kept ignoring it as we were waiting for someone to be our ‘Bhagat Singh’. But then we realised that we will have to become our own Bhagat Singh if we want to clean wrestling and make it safe for girls.

FP: What did all the wrestlers have to go through during the protest?

BP: The WFI President did everything in his power to make our protest look vague and political. He said it’s communal as many wrestlers are from a certain community; they tried to make it look regional, saying only wrestlers from two regions are there, but next day after his statements, wrestlers from all over the country came to our support at Jantar Mantar.

FP: Did you ever fight in any bouts against your idol, Yogeshwar Dutt? What was his stand on protest?

BP: We were in the same category, so we had a few bouts scheduled together, but I never stepped on the mat against him as I respect him very much. But I was disappointed when he didn’t take any stand against WFI’s dictatorship. Everyone knows about WFI’s dictatorship, but he decided not to do anything about it. If, being a senior, he had taken a stand, then we wouldn’t have been through it.

FP: What happened after the protest? You’ve already won all major medals, what’s next on your list now?

BP: We got calls from girls all over the country thanking us, saying, "We went through harassment too, but we couldn’t speak". I still have a lot to achieve, next on my list is winning a gold for my country at Olympics 2024.

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