New Delhi: India’s top wrestlers have again staged a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, accusing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually harassing several athletes. The wrestlers, who called off their protest earlier this year after being assured that a committee would investigate the allegations, say they will remain at the protest site until the police register an FIR in the case.
“We will not trust anyone blindly. We were misled last time. We hope there will be no politics in this matter this time,” said Vinesh Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
Also, the protestors said that they will not turn anyone away this time and those who want to support their protest can come and join. In January, protesters demanded that Left leader Vrinda Karat leave the platform because of “athletes’ protest”.
“At this time, all parties are welcome to join our struggle, be it BJP, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party or any other party. We are not affiliated with any party,” said Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia.
#WATCH | Delhi: “This time, all parties are welcome to join our protest whether it is BJP, Congress, AAP or any other party…..we’re not affiliated with any party…”: Bajrang Punia, Olympic medalist on wrestlers’ protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh pic.twitter.com/g2i8T0TaAS
— ANI (@ANI) April 24, 2023
Seven women wrestlers’ federation president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has filed a complaint of sexual harassment at the Connaught Place police station in central Delhi. The protesting sportspersons said that no action has been taken so far and the protest will continue until the police registers an FIR in the case.
The wrestlers say they ended their protest in January over “false assurances.”
“We will sit here day and night. We will sit here until we get justice,” Ms Bogut said after spending the night on the pavement.
“We have been trying to contact them (Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and other relevant officials) for three months. The team members are not responding to us, the Sports Ministry is not saying anything, they are not even taking our calls. We have won medals for the country and risked our lives for this,” she said. she also said.
In January, the sports ministry set up a five-member panel headed by Olympic medalist boxer MC Mary Kom to look into the complaints. The committee has been directed to submit its findings within a month.
Wrestler Sakshi Malik expressed frustration that the committee’s report on the issue has not yet been made public.
Podium से फुटपाथ तक।
आधी रात खुले आसमान के नीचे न्याय की आस में। pic.twitter.com/rgaVTM5WGK
— Vinesh Phogat (@Phogat_Vinesh) April 23, 2023
“We want the statement of women wrestlers to be made public. This is an important issue, one of the complainants is a minor girl,” she said, adding that the names of the complainants should not be leaked.
The government committee submitted its report in the first week of April, but the ministry is yet to make its findings public. However, sources said the wrestlers could not prove the sexual harassment allegations against the WFI boss after several investigations.
Several wrestlers went public on January 18 with their allegations against federation president Brij Bhushan Charan Singh. Elite wrestlers have said they are not satisfied after talks with the government and will “not wrestle another day” until their demands are met. Alleging mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, they demanded a complete overhaul of the federation.
Brij Bhushan Charan Singh, who has said he will not contest the WFI president’s election on May 7, has hinted at a new role within the federation. He has served as president for three to four years in a row and after completing 12 years as WFI president as per the sporting code, he is ineligible to contest for the top post.
The Delhi Police has registered seven complaints against the WFI chief, but not an FIR. A senior police officer said that an FIR will be registered after concrete evidence comes to light.
“As part of the investigation, we have sought a report from the inquiry committee set up by the sports ministry to look into the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the WFI president,” he said.