“We’re opponents on ground but brothers outside it”: Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia supports Neeraj Chopra over Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem; more shame for Hindutva bigots

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India’s Olympic medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia has come out in the open to support Neeraj Chopra over the controversy caused by Hindutva bigots. A day after India’s golden boy, Neeraj Chopra, slammed Hindutva hatemongers for carrying out Islamophobic agenda using his name, Bajrang too said that it was wrong to target Pakistani athlete Arshad Nadeem because of his nationality.

(Source: Reuters)

“An issue is being made over Neeraj Chopra (regarding Arshad Nadeem). Athletes are athletes regardless of their nationality. We’re opponents on ground but brothers outside it.Sports don’t teach us to harbour malice. It teaches us to unite&not be divided,” Bajrang, who won a Bronze medal for India on the same day Neeraj Chopra struck Gold medal in javelin throw competition, was quoted by news agency ANI.

This was after Neeraj hit out at Hindutva bigots for using his comments about Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem to further their ‘propaganda.’ Sharing a short video message on Twitter, Neeraj had written, “I would request everyone to please not use me and my comments as a medium to further your vested interests and propaganda. Sports teaches us to be together and united. I’m extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public on my recent comments.”

Bajrang agreed with his compatriot Olympian as he said that athletes simply represented their respective countries adding that they were sportspersons first. “Whether the athlete is from Pakistan or any other country, he represents his nation. He is a sportsperson first. So it’s not like we’ll say something against that person because he is from Pakistan. There should be respect for athletes,” Punia told Indian Express.

In a recent interview to Times of India, Neeraj was quoted as saying, “I was searching for my javelin at the start of the final. I was not able to find it. Suddenly, I saw Arshad Nadeem was moving around with my javelin. Then i told him, ‘Bhai give this javelin to me! I have to throw with it.’ Then he gave it back to me. That’s why you must have seen I took my first throw hurriedly.”

This had prompted Hindutva hatemongers to launch an attack on Arshad accusing him of attempting to sabotage the Indian star’s Olympic chances. But Neeraj made it clear that the Pakistani athlete was not tampering with his javelin.