Goonga Pehelwan: Virender Singh Yadav making all the right noises, but they continue to fall on deaf ears
Virender Singh has experienced massive success on the mat but failure off it.
Since he began to compete, Virender Singh Yadav has won seven medals in twelve years, four of them being gold. Any other athlete in India with that resume and calibre would be bathing in the adulation and riches that come along with such massive success.
Not Virender Singh though. Goonga Pehelwan – India’s most successful “Mute Wrestler” has been making all the right moves on the mat but has been at the receiving end of all the wrong decisions off it.
“Since 2005 we’ve had problems with the Government. Despite winning the World Championship (Deaflympics) in 2017, the problem continues. I have no idea what will happen in the future.”
Before travelling for the tournament, they had promised Virender and his father that if he does manage to win the competition, a hefty reward will be awarded to them on 15 August – Independence Day. They had even promised Virender an A-Grade job along with a reward of Rs.1.5 crore. There was always a sense of hope lingering on as it always should.
But ever since he returned as a champion along with widespread news coverage of his success, practically every single individual has turned their back on them including the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar.
It was only then when Virender and his father realized that all those promises meant nothing. They have once again been dealt a vicious hand and a powerless Virender does not possess the right cards to counter.
In June 2018, Virender will once again take to the mat for yet another crucial tournament. The Deaf World Championships are once again set to take place in Russia and Virender is struggling to cough up the funds required for training and travel. With the competition merely months away, it’s surely not the ideal way to prepare for one of the biggest events of his career.
There is no other way to put it, the sports ministry’s interests lie in places where there exist windfall gains and a deaf athlete who is a champion does not meet their criteria. Virender spends more time travelling to nearby states for help than wrestling.
“Whatever is happening to Virender is extremely wrong. We want to prepare in the right manner but every now and then, we have to travel to New Delhi and Chandigarh. We are not getting time to prepare and they keep giving reasons. They are neither saying yes or no. They keep saying it will take a week more (for funds),” his father explains.
Alongside Para Athletes, the Haryana Government has also officially recognized Mute Athletes and it meant they too would be part of the Ministry’s program which involves backing them at every stage of their career.
But recognizing them and helping them are two completely different scenarios. The Central Government has not yet introduced it in their policy framework. As a result, executing it makes it dicey.
“If the Government does not listen to us, we are planning a powerful protest against them. If this doesn’t get sorted out, we shall escalate it,” said his father Ajit Singh who has been tested to the limit and he is intent on changing the situation come what may. It's a task that will be easier said than done.
Virender surely has the credentials to back him up. He’s fought India’s most celebrated wrestler, Sushil Kumar on five occasions during his practice sessions in Delhi and Ajit mentions that Sushil wasn’t able to get the better of his son even once. Every single one of the five fights ended in draws.
At a time when young wrestlers could not even muster the courage to fight Sushil during the last national trials, Virender stands out – a sign of a true champion. This was no political victory but purely a sporting one – something that should have made a lot more noise.
During Virender’s matches, there are no whistles to signal the end of a play or a point. Mute wrestlers are given a slight nudge by the referees instead. On paper, you could easily term his careers as a massive success. But the ground reality stands in stark contrast.
Virender and his father have not been merely nudged but pushed in all directions by various stakeholders. With no sign of help in sight, all Goonga Pehelwan can continue to do is make all the right noises when he takes to the mat.
After all, consistently ignoring success is a task in itself, something that the Government cannot afford to do given his large-scale protest plans in the near future.