India wrestlers delay plan to throw medals in Ganges River as part of sexual abuse protest
Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat (center) is detained by the police while attempting to march to India's new parliament building on Sunday./Getty
India’s top wrestlers held off from throwing their medals into the country’s sacred Ganges River on Tuesday — as part of an ongoing protest against sexual harassment — after a community leader intervened and persuaded them against doing so.
The wrestlers, who have been demanding the resignation and arrest of the president of the wrestling federation for allegedly sexually harassing young female athletes, had said they would throw their medals into the river and then begin a hunger strike in the capital New Delhi.
The protest is being led by two women — Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik and world championships medalist Vinesh Phogat — as well as Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia, who is male. They reached the city of Haridwar in the evening, sat on the banks of the river and tearfully clutched their medals as a crowd gathered around them.
They changed their mind after Naresh Tikait, a community leader, reached the site and convinced the wrestlers to give the government five days to respond, local media reported.
“These medals are our life and soul. After we immerse them in the Ganga river, there would be no meaning for us to live. So we will go to India Gate and sit on a fast unto death,” the wrestlers had said in a statement released earlier Tuesday. The India Gate is a war memorial located in the heart of New Delhi.
The wrestlers, joined by hundreds of supporters, have been staging a protest in the center of New Delhi for a month, amid a brutal heatwave while foregoing their training schedules. The protest has drawn support from opposition parties and farmer unions as most of the Indian wrestlers come from the northern agricultural states of Haryana and Punjab.
They accuse Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, of sexually harassing seven young female wrestlers, one of whom was a minor. Singh, a 66-year-old powerful lawmaker representing the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has denied the accusations and called the protests “politically motivated” by the opposition Congress party.
On Sunday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building, police detained a number of protesting wrestlers, including Punia and Malik, who were attempting to march to the building. Some of the protesters scuffled with police and were taken away in a bus.
In their statement on Tuesday, the wrestlers said they were treated in “a barbaric manner” by the police and that their protest site was dismantled.
“Did we commit a crime by demanding justice for the sexual harassment committed against the female wrestlers? We have been treated like criminals,” they said. “We women wrestlers feel there is nothing left for us in this country.”
Phogat claimed in January that several coaches have exploited female wrestlers at the behest of the WFI president.
Indian police are investigating the allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, and he has been questioned in the case. India’s Supreme Court has also acknowledged that the case involves “serious allegations of sexual harassment,” but it has been met with silence from the ruling party leaders, including Modi.
After their initial protest in January, Indian Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur asked the president of the federation to step aside and help in carrying out the probe. He also said a committee would be set up to investigate the allegations and that a report would be released in four weeks.
But no report has been released in the months since while Singh continues to head the federation, prompting the wrestlers to resume their protest in April.
The case has again highlighted the #MeToo movement in India, which picked up pace in 2018 when a spate of actresses and writers flooded social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
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French Open: Coco Gauff to face younger opponent for first time at a Grand Slam
Coco Gauff‘s first 49 Grand Slam main draw singles matches were all against older opponents. Her 50th will be against a younger one.
The sixth-seeded Gauff reached the French Open third round by beating 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. Gauff, 19, next plays 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the round of 32 on Saturday.
Gauff made her major debut at age 15 in 2019 by beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In her 15 majors, Gauff has usually been the youngest male or female singles player, including most recently at 2022 Wimbledon. She is still the lone teenager in the WTA top 49.
But that may soon change. Youngsters from the Czech Republic and Russia are on the rise. Such as Andreeva, who, at No. 143 in the world and rising, is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18. And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches, fewest of any woman.
FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule
But Gauff is still in a class of her own among her generation, having at last year’s French Open become the youngest major finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17. She somehow flew somewhat under the radar into Paris this year with a 4-4 record this spring and in between full-time coaches.
She has now won back-to-back matches for the first time since March, rallying past 71st-ranked Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in the first round and then dispatching an error-prone Grabher, a runner-up at a low-level clay event last week.
The other three seeds in Gauff’s section have all lost, so she would not play a seed until the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won all 12 sets they’ve played, including in last year’s French Open final.
“I lost that final, and like for like a week or two, I really thought it was the worst thing ever,” Gauff said. “There’s no point in me revisiting last year. It’s in the past. It was a great tournament, but I’m looking forward for more this week.”
While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.
The top four seeds — Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan — all reached the third round without dropping a set.
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