Wrestlers protest against unfair exemption claims: Bajrang Punia asserts, ‘We never sought exemption from trials…’

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Yogeshwar Dutt’s Doubts Over Exemption Spark Wrestlers’ Protest

Yogeshwar Dutt, a renowned bronze medalist at the London Olympics, raised questions on Friday about the decision made by the ad-hoc panel. He wondered whether these wrestlers were engaging in agitation against the WFI chief to secure preferential treatment.

However, the protesting wrestlers categorically denied seeking any favor from the IOA ad-hoc panel. They even expressed their willingness to quit wrestling if any proof was presented against them. This stance faced opposition from some fellow grapplers who had received exemptions from trials at the Asian Games.

Dutt’s doubts sparked a strong reaction from Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat, who took to social media to address their followers. Responding to the former wrestler and current BJP leader, they clarified their stance.

Sakshi Malik emphasized, “We did not ask for exemption from trials; we just requested for time to prepare.” Similarly, Bajrang Punia, a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, stated that if it was proven they had only asked for one bout trial for the Asian Games and World Championships, they would quit wrestling. He also urged Dutt to approach the sports minister if he had concerns about the trial selection process.

The wrestlers, however, did not specify whether they would accept direct entry into the final or participate in the full draw.

It has come to light that the two coaches added to the ad hoc panel, Gian Singh and Ashoak Garg, had requested exemptions from trials for 6 wrestlers. During the protest at Jantar Mantar, both coaches were present.

Sakshi pleaded with Dutt not to falsely portray the 6 wrestlers as solely driven by a desire to win and participate in a single trial. She stressed that they had never avoided trials and had never deprived any junior wrestler of their opportunity.

Amidst the controversy, it was revealed that Sangeeta Phogat (Bajrang’s wife), Satywart Kadian (Sakshi’s husband), and Jitender Kinha were exempted from the trials.

Dutt’s questioning of the decision’s logic and criteria, shared via a tweet on Friday, triggered a response from Vinesh Phogat. She criticized Dutt, accusing him of being a lackluster servant of Brij Bhushan, a prominent figure in the wrestling community.

It is worth noting that Dutt himself was among the six individuals appointed by the government to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Singh.

Bajrang Punia also made allegations against Dutt, claiming that he had compromised his integrity by participating in the 2015 World Championships despite being unfit. He accused Dutt of having undergone an ACL surgery just one month before the tournament, resulting in his withdrawal and leaving a vacant spot in his weight category.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) faced embarrassment when Dutt was deemed unfit at the last moment, forcing his withdrawal from the 2015 Wrestling World Championships held in the United States.

The controversy surrounding exemptions and allegations continues to unfold, leaving the wrestling community divided and uncertain about the path forward.

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