Haryana's khaps and farmer organisations came out in support of protesting wrestlers and prevented them from immersing their medals in Ganga River.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Narseh Tikait reached Har ki Pauri at Haridwar on Tuesday evening and intervened and prevented the protesting wrestlers from immersing their medals in Ganga River.
For weeks, top Indian wrestlers have been protesting over the alleged sexual harassment by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and inaction in the case. Singh is also a Member of Parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Two days after wrestlers were manhandled by Delhi Police during their protst march in Delhi, they announced earlier on Tuesday that they would immerse their medals in Ganga River at Haridwar and then go on a hunger strike at Delhi's India Gate. However, as they sat at Har ki Pauri at Haridwar, Tikait reached the site and intervened and secured a five-day period to resolve the issue.
In doing so, farmer organisations and khaps have thrown their weight behind the protesting wrestlers.
Appeals to wrestlers to not immerse medals
Earlier, Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda also appealed to the wrestlers against immersing their medals in the river, saying the awards they have won for the country were not favours from any person or any government.
"The country that celebrates your victory is standing with you even today. Don't get disappointed! We appeal to you, come back! Change the decision of immersing the medals in the Ganga," the former Haryana chief minister said in a tweet.
BJP Lok Sabha MP from Hisar Brijendra Singh, son of former Union minister Birender Singh, said it was a "heartbreaking moment".
"I feel the pain and helplessness of our wrestlers forcing them to the brink of throwing away their lifetime of hardwork- the medals from Olympics, CWGs, Asian Games in the holy Ganga. Absolutely heartbreaking," he tweeted.
Khap leaders in support of wrestlers
Throwing their weight behind the protesting wrestlers, Phogat Khap leader Balwant Nambardar had said, "We request them that these medals are the results of their hard work, sacrifices of their families and support from society. They should not take this step.
"It is unfortunate that those who represented the nation in top international tournaments are forced to take such decisions. The government should be ashamed and give justice to them in the case."
Nambardar also said Haryana's khaps and farmer organisations stood with the wrestlers in their struggle for justice.
"Charkhi Dadri is ready to spill its blood for them," said Nambardar.
Haryana BKU (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni had also requested the protesting wrestlers not to immerse their medals, saying the awards were part of national heritage and future generations would take inspiration from these.
Kandela Khap leader Ramphal Kandela had also appealed to the wrestlers not to immerse their medals.
Wrestlers' decision to immerse medals
The country's top wrestlers, who were detained by Delhi Police and removed from their Jantar Mantar protest site, earlier in the day on Tuesday had said they will immerse their hard-earned medals in river Ganges and sit on a hunger strike "until death" at the India Gate.
In a letter shared on Twitter, the wrestlers said that the medals around their necks "no longer have any meaning". They also said they would sit at India Gate on a hunger strike after immersing their medals.
"Medals are our life and soul. After immersing them in Ganga, our lives would have no meaning...Ater immersing them, we would sit on a hunger strike at India Gate," said the wrestlers in their letter.
Comparing themselves to the fallen soldiers honoured at the India Gate, the wrestlers said, "India Gate is for those martyrs who gave up their life for the nation. We are not that holy but we also had a feeling like soldiers when we played at the international stage."
On Sunday, Delhi police detained Malik along with World Championships bronze winner Vinesh Phogat and another Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and later filed FIRs against them for violation of law and order, as dramatic scenes unfolded at the protest site at Jantar Mantar.
(With PTI inputs)