Wrestlers continue silent sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar against WFI president

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and others during their ‘ dharna’ to protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday, January 19, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and other wrestlers continued to sit on a silent protest at Jantar Mantar for the second day against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Star wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Wednesday alleged that the WFI president has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator.

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Phogat, who has been at loggerheads with the WFI since the Tokyo Olympic Games, also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow have also exploited women wrestlers, adding that there are a few women at the camp who approached the wrestlers at the behest of the WFI president.

The 28-year-old, however, clarified that she never faced such exploitation but claimed that “one victim” was present at the ‘dharna’ they began at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.

Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at the famous protest site.

Babita Phogat at protest site with Centre’s message

Champion wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat on Thursday arrived at the protest site at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

“Babita Phogat has come from the government’s side for mediation. We will speak with her and then give more details,” Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia told ANI.

Babita Phogat said she has assured the wrestlers that the government is with them. “I will try that their issues are resolved today,” she said.

Mr. Singh, 66, was elected unopposed president of WFI for a third consecutive term in February 2019.

Meanwhile, taking cognizance of the protest staged by wrestlers, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made.

In its communication to WFI, the Ministry has stated that “since the matter pertains to the well-being of athletes, the Ministry has taken a very serious view of the matter.”

The Ministry has further stated that if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the Federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.

(With agency inputs)

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