New Delhi: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday formed a seven-member committee to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, reported news agency ANI. “Members are Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Alaknanda Ashok, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sahdev Yadav and two advocates,” said IOA.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has formed a seven-member committee to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Members are Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Alaknanda Ashok, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sahdev Yadav and two advocates: IOA pic.twitter.com/BjuyEbUHZu
— ANI (@ANI) January 20, 2023
The emergency meeting was called after protesting wrestlers submitted a petition to IOA chairwoman P.T. Usha demanding her to appoint a panel to investigate sexual harrassment claims levelled against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
A day after threatening to file numerous FIRs against the WFI President, the wrestlers accused the WFI of financial embezzlement (of cash) and stated that the coaches and sports science personnel at the National camp are “totally inept” in their letter.
The wrestlers made four demands in their letter: “We want the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to immediately create a committee to investigate the charges of sexual harassment.” Wrestlers also demanded that the WFI be dismantled and its President be fired.
“A new committee should be formed to run the affairs of WFI in consultation with the wrestlers,” they wrote in their fourth and last demand.
Five wrestlers have signed the letter, including Tokyo Olympics medalists Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia, Rio Games bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, and World Championship medalists Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia.
“It has taken a lot of bravery for us wrestlers to join together and protest against the WFI President,” the famed wrestlers appealed further in their letter. “We are afraid for our life. If he is not fired, the careers of all the young people who participated in the dharna would be ended.” They finished the letter by declaring that “we will not budge until the WFI President is dismissed.”
Olympic bronze medalist boxer Vijender Singh, now a Congress lawmaker, also arrived to Jantar Mantar to demonstrate support with the wrestlers.
On Thursday, Vinesh Phogat stated that additional female wrestlers have come forward with accusations of sexual exploitation and that they will file several FIRs against the WFI President.
They met with government officials during the day and then met with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his apartment for supper after being summoned to resolve the burning issue.
However, both discussions were unsatisfactory, with the wrestlers insisting that the WFI be disbanded immediately and the administration requesting that they halt their protest. They will meet Thakur again on Friday for a second round of talks.
The government has given WFI President 72 hours to react to the claims (until Saturday evening).
Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh told the reporters in Uttar Pradesh that he will not quit since his position is not at the mercy of anyone.
When told that wrestlers have claimed that making everything public will trigger an earthquake, the WFI President responded that opening his lips (revealing secrets) will generate a tsunami. Later in the evening, the BJP MP and Sports Minister will address the media.
The WFI also declared that the senior open national ranking competition scheduled for January 21-23 in Gonda (UP) will go ahead as planned and invited all wrestlers to compete.