Wrestlers’ protest | At emergency meeting, IOA forms seven-member committee to probe sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief


Wrestlers protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on January 20, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

As wrestler’s sit-in protest entered third day, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday called an emergency Executive Council meeting to discuss their demands. The Association formed a seven-member committee to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

“Members are M.C. Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Alaknanda Ashok, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sahdev Yadav and two advocates,” the IOA said.

“We will sit and listen to everyone and do an unbiased investigation after looking at the charges and try to give a fair justice,” Sahdev Yadav, Indian Weightlifting Federation president and a member of the seven-member committee former by the IOA, told news agency ANI.

The emergency meet was called after the protesting wrestlers wrote a letter to IOA chief P.T. Usha, urging her to form a panel to look into the allegations of sexual harrassment by the WFI president.

A day after threatening to lodge multiple FIRs against the WFI President, the wrestlers alleged in their letter financial misappropriation (of funds) on part of the WFI and claimed that the coaches and sports science staff at the National camp are “absolutely incompetent”.

Putting forward four demands, the wresters wrote: “We request the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment.” The wrestlers also reiterated their demand that WFI be disbanded and its President be sacked.

“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.

The letter has been signed by five wrestlers — Tokyo Olympics medallists Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia, Rio Games bronze winner Sakshi Malik and World Championship medallists Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia.

Further in their letter, the celebrated athletes pleaded, “It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against the WFI President. We fear for our lives. If he is not sacked then the careers of all the young who joined the dharna will be over.” They ended the letter by writing that “we will not budge until the WFI President is sacked.

Beijing Olympics bronze medallist boxer and now a Congress leader Vijender Singh also reached the protest site at Jantar Mantar, showing solidarity with the wrestlers.

Vinesh Phogat had on Thursday said that more woman wrestlers have come forward with their stories of sexual exploitation and they will file multiple FIRs against the WFI President.

They met government officials during the day and later had a dinner meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence after being called for discussion on the raging issue.

However, both the meetings remained inconclusive with the wrestlers adamant that WFI be dissolved immediately while the government requested them to end their protest. They are scheduled to meet Thakur on Friday for a second round of discussion.

The government has given WFI President 72 hours (till Saturday evening) to respond to the allegations.

Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh while speaking to media in U.P., said he won’t resign because his position was not at someone’s mercy.

When told that wrestlers have said that if they bring everything in public domain it will cause an earthquake, the WFI President said if he will open his mouth (reveal secrets), it will cause a tsunami.

The BJP MP and Sports Minister will address the media later in the evening.

The WFI also announced that the senior open national ranking tournament, scheduled to be held in Gonda (UP) from January 21-23, will be held as planned and requested all wrestlers to come and compete.

(With inputs from agencies)



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