Protesting Wrestlers write to PT Usha on sexual harassment complaints against WFI chief
20 January, 2023 | Pragati Singh
Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia wrote to PT Usha, President of the Indian Olympic Association, on Friday, alleging “sexual harassment...
Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia wrote to PT Usha, President of the Indian Olympic Association, on Friday, alleging “sexual harassment” against Wrestling Federation India chief Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.
The star wrestlers charged the WFI head of sexual exploitation and financial violations in a letter to IOA president Usha. The letter, signed by Bajrang Punia, Phogat, Malikkh, Dahiya, and Deepak Punia, requests that the WFI chairman quit and that an investigation committee be formed into the charges of sexual harassment.
On Thursday, some of the country’s top wrestlers, including Phogat, Mallikkh, and Bajrang Punia, joined the sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, which began on Wednesday.
Wrestlers have accused the WFI president and its instructors of sexual harassment of female wrestlers, as well as mismanagement in the federation’s operations. They requested that the federation be completely restructured.
On the first day of the protest, Indian wrestler and Commonwealth Games winner Vinesh Phogat said that instructors who are favourites of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) misbehave with and harass women.
She also accused the wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually harassing girls and calling her a ‘khota sikka’ after her defeat at Tokyo Olympics 2020.
On the sidelines of a sit-in protest against the WFI near Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, Phogat on Wednesday said, “Coaches are harassing women and some coaches, who are favourites of the Federation, misbehave with women coaches as well. They sexually harass girls. The WFI president has sexually harassed many girls.”
However, the WFI chief refuted the charges of sexual assault allegations made by the wrestlers against him on Wednesday.
Denying the claims by the wrestlers of their sexual assault, Singh said, “I read that the name of the chief coach has also been taken in sexual assault allegations. I also read that the reason for the players’ camp being held in Lucknow is so that they can be called at my home. I do have a home in Lucknow but I hardly reside there. My home is 120-130 kms away from Lucknow. All the sexual harassment allegations are false and I will commit suicide if they are found to be true. I tried to get in touch with the wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia but was unable to do so.”
Meanwhile, some wrestlers met with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur late last night on the problem, which lasted until the early hours of today.
Later in the day, under pressure to quit amid claims of sexual abuse of female wrestlers, WFI chairman Singh stated that he will “reveal” the “political conspiracy” in a news conference on Friday afternoon.
Singh, a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh, announced on Facebook that he will attend a news conference at the Wrestling Training Centre in Nawabganj, Gonda district.