Bhayandar: MBMC sounds death knell for akhara as wrestlers struggle to survive

Bhayandar: In a country where movies like Dangal and Sultan turn out to be a perfect money-minting formula on the silver screen, real-life wrestlers struggle to keep the traditio­nal kushti (Indian combative wrestling) alive in the city.

In view of the fund crunch and absence of any logistical support, a group of wrest­lers had carved out a small akhara (wrestling arena) at the space provided by the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) at its community hall in Bhayandar (West).

More than a decade after charging an annual fees, the MBMC has now sounded the death knell by slapping eviction notices. The civic administration claims it was only following government notifications, which mandates classification of community halls as commercial entities.

“The manifold hike in rent is bound to spell doom for institutions like this akhara, which is not a profit-driven club, but promotes and encourages the traditional sport. It will be a death knell for the game,” said national-level referee and trainer Vasant Patil.  “We are helpless. The notices are in accordance to rules,” said a civic official.

The akhara, which got a makeover as mats and other little facilities recently, is not only a small academy imparting free training to budding wrestlers, but an assembly point for former wrest­l­ers, most from the down trod­den and economically-weaker sections. “The main need of a wrestler is proper nutrition, but as most of us belong to poor families, we are unable to get a proper diet.

Due to limited resources from menial jobs, our trainers manage to maintain the wrestling arena, which has to be regularly treated with herbs, special oils, lime and curd,” said a young wrestler. Presently, 75 young mud warriors, including 15 girls, train at the akhara, which despite all odds has produced renowned state-level wrest­l­ers, like Sneha Aagwane, Akshay and Vaibhav Mane.

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