‘Won’t Enter The Arena Again’: Wrestlers Intesify Protest Against WFI President. Key Points

‘Won’t Enter The Arena Again’: Wrestlers Intesify Protest Against WFI President. Key Points

Wrestlers demonstrating in Delhi on Thursday over sexual harassment charges against the federation’s president and coaches said they were unsatisfied with the government’s response and “won’t wrestle another day” unless their demands are addressed.

Speaking at a press briefing, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik said: “We have not got a satisfactory response; only assurances, no concrete action. We will not quit till the federation chief is removed, and he goes to jail. We have 5-6 girls with proof. If the government does not act, we will go to the police.”

“We did not want to go the legal road because we have trust in the Prime Minister,” the three wrestlers, who are among India’s most decorated wrestlers, said at a press conference before closing up the second day of their sit-in at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar with approximately 200 others.

Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur came to Delhi from Chandigarh late on Thursday to meet the wrestlers.

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The declaration came after their meetings at the Sports Ministry, which were mediated by Olympian Babita Phogat, a BJP member and member of the Haryana cabinet. “First and foremost, I’m a wrestler. The BJP government is on the side of the wrestlers. In my job, I have also heard about cases of abuse. Without fire, there is no smoke,” stated Babita Phogat. The country’s sports ministry requested the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Wednesday to react to the claims within 72 hours after Vinesh Phogat, a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist, made the allegations public. Meanwhile, Anurag Thakur, the sports minister, will meet with the wrestlers at his apartment at 10 p.m. today. WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP, has denied the allegations. “All the sexual harassment allegations are false, and I will commit suicide if they are found to be true,” the 66-year-old said, news agency ANI reported. Vinesh Phogat, 28, made the charges against Mr Singh and coaches during a public demonstration in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, which was supported by several other top wrestlers. “Coaches and even the WFI president have sexually assaulted female wrestlers during national camps. I know at least 10-20 girls in the national camp who have come to me and told me their experiences” she said. Phogat stated she had never experienced such mistreatment herself, but that many wrestlers were afraid to speak up because of their low beginnings. “They are scared because of their family background. They can’t fight them because they are powerful. Wrestling is our only livelihood, and they are not letting us do it. Our only option is to die. So might as well do good before dying,” she added. The Delhi Commission for Women, a local organisation that handles women’s concerns, has filed a notice to the sports ministry and requested that the city police open a complaint. Swati Maliwal, the organization’s chief, met with the protesting wrestlers at the Jantar Mantar. The claims came months after the coach of the country’s national cycling team was fired after being accused of sexual harassment. The #MeToo campaign in India gained traction in 2018 after a Bollywood actress accused a prominent actor of sexual harassment. Soon after, women from diverse backgrounds came forward with additional complaints, including one against a former government minister, but campaigners say little has changed.  

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