"Will quit wrestling if proven we asked for exemption from trials": Bajrang Punia
Fellow wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt had asked on June 23 whether the protesting sportspersons were agitating against the outgoing WFI chief to get such 'favours'
On Sunday, 25 June, Olympian wrestler Vinesh Phogat tweeted the draft of a letter written to sports minister Anurag Thakur, which shows a request from six wrestlers participating in the protests at Jantar Mantar, to be allowed extra preparation time for the upcoming Asian Games trials.
An extension of the trial deadline to August 10, rather than a request for an exemption — that is the point of the document Phogat shared.
The protesting wrestlers have been sitting in since the beginning of the year, to demand action against former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who stands accused of sexual misconduct with several women wrestlers (and arguably, one girl).
This Twitter post was Phogat's response to opposition from fellow grapplers when the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) ad-hoc panel announced the six could proceed after a one-bout trial against the winners of the earlier trials.
Leading the charge has been Yogeshwar Dutt, London Olympic bronze medallist and also a BJP leader like Singh. Dutt questioned the ad-hoc panel's decision on Friday, 23 June, and asked if these wrestlers were agitating against the outgoing WFI chief to get such "favours".
Dutt had also exhorted other junior wrestlers, their coaches and their parents to raise their voices against this 'injustice', which he saw as an undue exemption when other grapplers would need to go through six rounds.
Dutt also levelled some other allegations, and the trio of Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia have all responded on social media.
The 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Malik said, "We did not ask for exemption from trials, just asked for time to prepare."
Punia said he would quit wrestling if the Dutt's allegation that they had asked for just a one-bout trial ahead of the Asian Games and World Championships was proven true.
Punia added, "If you had problems about the one-bout trial, you should have approached the sports minister and asked on what basis they are taking the trials. But you chose to spread poison through social media."
"We are ready to quit wrestling if it is proved that we asked for exemption. We never wrote any letter for exemption. If our elders feel that we have done anything wrong, we will quit," Punia said.
Malik too asked Dutt to refrain from spreading the wrong message that the six wrestlers "just wanted to win and participate in one trial". She said, "In our life, we have never gone without any trials and never ever deprived any junior."
It has been learnt that it was Gyan Singh and Ashok Garg, the two coaches on the IOA ad-hoc panel, who had sought exemption from the early rounds of trials for the six wrestlers.
Dutt had also alleged that Phogat had got her husband's relative Om Prakash Dahiya a hefty Rs 25 lakh prize from the Haryana government, though it was her real coach Mahabir Phogat who deserved the cash reward.
Responding to that, Vinesh said, "You made a mistake. The amount was Rs 35 lakh. He deserved it because he trained me and worked hard. He is [a] Dronacharya (Lifetime) awardee. He had trained more than 100 wrestlers."