The protesting wrestlers’ fight for justice at Jantar Mantar is turning out to be an ‘expensive’ one as arranging for even the most basic needs is burning a hole in their pocket. But in spite of that, the wrestlers are prepared for a long haul at the famous protest site, where they have assembled to demand the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who they have accused of sexual harassment and intimidation.
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More than Rs 5 lakh spent on arranging mattesses, bed sheets among other things
In five days, the wrestlers have spent more than Rs five lakh for arranging mattresses, bed sheets, fans, speakers and microphones, a mini power gen-set, apart from water and food. Initially, they took mattresses, bed sheets and the sound system on rent, shelling out Rs 27000 for a single day. Soon they realised that if they have to sit in for a long period, arranging for even little things would become a huge financial burden.
“So we decided to buy mattresses. I bought 80 mattresses from my village Kharkhoda by paying Rs 50,000. We were being charged 12000 a day for all the mattresses. That’s a huge sum,” Somvir Rathi, husband of Vinesh Phogat, told PTI. “Initially, we had taken speakers and microphones on rent, but the one-day cost was Rs 12,000. It was too much. Now we have bought our own sound system from Chandni Chowk market for Rs 60,000.
“The shopkeeper was nice. He knew that athletes are on the road so he gave us the system on a not-for-profit basis,” he added. A few items like fans and generators are still on rent — both at a combined amount of about Rs 10,000 a day. “We will buy coolers if the need arises. It’s very hot out there. We had brought Rs two lakh cash with us but have already spent about 5-6 lakh rupees so far.”
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The fight goes on at Jantar Mantar
While Vinesh, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia are the face of the protest, people like the unassuming Somvir, his friend Yogesh (Bharat Kesri) and several others are working day and night to keep the protest going. “We have divided the work among ourselves. A few coaches are ensuring that quality food is being prepared by the cooks while young wrestlers deliver food to the protest site. Another guy makes sure that water supply is uninterrupted and another takes care of cleanliness and one runs errands. “Even the security personnel help us sometimes.”
What will they do with all the things when they wind up from here? “We will distribute everything to either Gurudwara or a temple. They can make good use of mattresses, speakers and other stuff.”
Haryana wrestlers asked to stay home for now
Somvir quietly passed on a big packet of water bottles over the police barricading to one of the wrestlers, who took the package and placed it in one corner of the protest area. At times Somvir was seen trying to convince the leaders of the ‘akhaaras’ in Haryana to not send wrestlers to the protest site since handling a big crowd would pose a challenge. “I have told them not to come here as yet. Handling a big crowd could become a big issue. A few wrestlers’ parents came with 50kg milk, and unfortunately, about 20kg went waste because it turned sour due to the summer heat. There is no place to keep such things, so we are asking people for just support.”
“There was a meeting in Rohtak on Thursday. From among 100 ‘akhadaas’ in Haryana, about 80 are willing to come here to support us.” Are they not getting financial help from any political party or influential people who believe in their cause? “If that was the case, we would have a waterproof shed over our head and some decent facilities, but we are managing with bare minimum.” The families of Vinesh, Sakshi and Bajrang are managing the cost. “We are not accepting help from any one as of today. We are managing by ourselves and spending money very carefully. All the people are coming are arranging for their food on their own.”