New Delhi: Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will hold a press conference Friday at the Wrestling Training Centre in Nawabganj in Gonda district, Uttar Pradesh. His presser will come amid the ongoing protest by wrestlers at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. The wrestlers have now written to Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha asking to form an inquiry panel to probe the case. The protesters have also demanded intervention from PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
This comes after top Indian wrestlers refused to back down from their demand for the government to initiate immediate steps to disband the WFI as they met Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.
“Exposing the political conspiracy of those conspiring against wrestling and playing with the dignity of women wrestlers,” Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh wrote on Facebook in Hindi post announcing his press conference to be held today.
Celebrated Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat and others have been on a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual exploitation and intimidation.
On Thursday night, the protesting wrestlers led by Vinesh and Bajrang besides Sakshi, Anshu Malik, Ravi Dahiya, Sarita Mor, and others met Anurag Thakur at his residence and demanded speedy action. The two sides engaged in a marathon meeting that ended around 2 am, with the parties failing to find a tangible solution thus far.
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WFI Protest — What We Know So Far
WFI President Brijbhushan S Singh responded to the allegations that he stayed in the same hotel in Bulgaria thus violating rules. He said, “Stay arrangements are made by organisers and each country’s team is kept at a separate place. The (woman) wrestler who alleged that the door was open was not in that tournament”.
He said, “I am not sitting here because of anyone’s mercy, but after being elected by the public”.
Olympian Wrestler Bajrang Punia asks PM Modi and HM Shah to intervene. Says, “We’re sad that the athletes have to sit here in protest leaving their practice. Our fight is only against the Wrestling Federation of India. We appeal to Prime Minister, Home Minister and Union Sports minister to hear our demands.”
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat appealed to Prime Minister Modi for his intervention. She said if a resolution does not come by evening, wrestlers will lodge FIR tomorrow.
Vijender Singh, the Olympian Boxer & Congress leader asks to do a live recording of the interaction between the Union Sports minister or any official with the wrestlers. He said this way “we will get to know exactly what they’ve discussed & will understand who is wrong & who is right”.
Vijender Singh said, “I want justice to be served to those wrestlers, there must be a thorough probe into the allegations raised by wrestlers and there must be a CBI probe against those who’re involved in this”.
Protesting wrestlers have written a complaint against Brij Bhushan Singh to Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha. In the letter, they accused the WFI President of sexual exploitation and financial irregularities.
The letter signed by Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia demands the resignation of the WFI president and the formation of an inquiry committee on the allegations of sexual abuse.
Allegations of sexual harassment, mental torture, non-payment of sponsorship money, coaches not selected on the basis of merit, and Vinesh Phogat being mentally harassed have been raised.
On allegations, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said, “I have not had a talk with anyone yet. I will address a press conference later today. 300 athletes from Haryana have reached here”. He said his resignation is out of the question.
News agency PTI reported sources as saying that the government wants the wrestlers to end their protest but they have remained steadfast in their demand that the WFI should be disbanded first. “The government can resolve other issues later… we are fine with that, but it must disband the WFI first,” a source close to the wrestlers told PTI. A team of wrestlers, including Bajrang, Vinesh, Anshu, Sakshi and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan met government officials earlier on Thursday to discuss their issues with Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Sports Authority of India Director General Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal. As per PTI, during the hour-long meeting, the athletes were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed. Former wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat was also part of the meeting.
The WFI is yet to submit a response to the Sports Ministry, which has sought an explanation over the wrestlers’ allegations. The ministry cannot force Brij Bhushan to resign unless it receives a written reply since the government itself had asked the WFI for an explanation.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Commission for Women said that “complainants can approach the women’s panel with their complaints related to this matter”. The protest began with a startling revelation wherein a crying Vinesh Phogat on Wednesday alleged that WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator and BJP MP.
The 28-year-old clarified that she herself never faced such exploitation but said, “I know at least 10-20 women wrestlers who have told me about the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of (the) WFI President. They told me their stories. I can’t take their names now but I can definitely reveal the names if we get to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country”.
“I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible,” she claimed.
(With Agency Inputs)