India’s top wrestlers, including two Olympic medalists, rebelled against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Wednesday, accusing its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of running the body in an “authoritarian” manner, and ” “Sexual exploitation and mental harassment”. National camp
In an unprecedented sit-in at the capital’s Jantar Mantar area, Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia, Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, and two-time world championships medalist Vinesh Phogat, around 30 Led a group of wrestlers. At a media conference at the venue, they demanded Singh’s immediate removal to “save the boat from its clutches”. Wrestling is India’s most successful individual Olympic sport with seven medals, including two in Tokyo 2021.
The protesting wrestlers alleged that Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BP) MP from Kaiserganj, Uttar Pradesh, in his third term as the federation’s president (his term ends this year), had Running the institution as his fiefdom. They also accused him of “sexual harassment” and “abuse” against wrestlers.
The wrestlers — the group includes young stars Anshu Malik, a silver medalist at the 2021 World Championships, and Tokyo Olympian Sonam Malik — said they would take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Will pick up.
Speaking to reporters hours later, Singh denied allegations of sexual harassment, alleging that the coup was part of a “conspiracy” to oust him.
Vinesh said during the sit-in that she was “mentally tortured” after the Tokyo Olympics, where she lost in the quarterfinals. He alleged that he received death threats from people in the federation because he complained to the Prime Minister about the playing conditions during a meeting.
“The WFI president is a very powerful man and wrestlers are afraid to speak against him. Now we have gathered courage as things are getting out of hand,” Vinesh said.
He also alleged that “girls are sexually exploited” at the National Women’s Camp in Lucknow.
“Coaches are sexually harassing girls and misbehaving with women coaches in the camp. I am not saying this about all the coaches, but about a few of them, the federation chief said. Close. I complained against the chief coach Jitendra Yadav but still he was not removed. The WFI president has sexually abused the girls,” Vinesh said.
“I can name 10 to 20 girls that I have seen in 10 years at the national camp who told me their stories in tears. Such incidents have happened frequently but are afraid to come out in the open. They have power and positions. “Can’t fight such a battle with a man. There are a few girls sitting here who have faced similar incidents,” she added.
Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik supported Vinesh’s allegations. “Why do you think a women’s camp is set up in Lucknow? It is the house of the WFI president and they can use it for exploitation,” Malik said. “We fought for our future generations. have been. We have only two to three years left in our career but we don’t want the new generation to suffer.
Tokyo medalist Punia said wrestlers will not participate in any competitions and national camps as long as Singh is president. “Wrestlers from all over the country are with us on this issue. It’s not like we are the only 20-30 people you see here. We are the face and we have taken this brave step. We will not fight until then. Unless he (Singh) resigns,” he said.
“During a recent national meet in Ranchi, he (Singh) abused a wrestler from Haryana in such foul language that I cannot reveal it here. I have a video,” he added, adding that any non- A domestic coach does not want to come to India because of bad reputation. “We don’t have quality coaches in India but the WFI doesn’t want to get any foreign coach. After I won the bronze medal in Tokyo, I was in pain for six months but they didn’t give me any physio. I gave my Recovery is self-serving.”
Singh, on his part, hit back while speaking to reporters at the WFI headquarters in the capital later in the day.
“Allegations of harassment of any kind are baseless. Top wrestlers want to set the terms and want the WFI to bend its course according to their wishes and desires,” he said.
“Why should I quit? Even if a female wrestler comes forward and proves the allegation of sexual harassment, I am ready to be hanged,” Singh added. “There could be an investigation by the CBI or the police.” There is no dictatorship. These same wrestlers met me a week ago and did not say anything.
Singh, who has been the head of the federation since 2012, said the protest was being held at the behest of an industrialist who wanted to start a new federation in Haryana.
“A complaint has already been filed against me that I did not give permission to set up the Haryana Wrestling Federation. I also think an industrialist is behind it all,” Singh said without naming anyone. said
Sports Ministry sought clarification from WFI.
Earlier, Vinesh broke down talking about her ordeal after the Tokyo Olympics, saying that Singh had mentally tortured her to the point where she thought of committing suicide. A medal prospect in Tokyo, she lost early and was later embroiled in a long-running row with the WFI, which suspended her for misconduct before withdrawing the charge.
“After the Tokyo Olympics, I was banned for two years for irregularity (not wearing an official singlet) when I was not at fault. The singlet I wore had India’s name and flag on it. “Our kit is of such low quality that we are not comfortable wearing it, let alone fighting on the mat and that’s why I was wearing a different singlet,” said Vinesh.
But I had to go through mental agony. I was not sure if the man (Singh) would allow me to stay after Tokyo. He called me Khota Sikha (useless coin). I even received death threats from people close to him. When the time comes, I will take their names,” said the 28-year-old who revived his career with a gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the second World Championships last year.
The Union Sports Ministry said it has sought an explanation from the WFI within 72 hours due to the wrestlers’ comments. “If the WFI fails to respond within the next 72 hours, the ministry will initiate action against the federation under the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also announced that the women’s national camp, scheduled to begin on January 18 at the Sports Authority of India Center in Lucknow with 41 wrestlers and 13 coaches and support staff, has been cancelled.
Wrestlers also got support from athletes from other fields.
India’s first individual Olympics gold medalist Abhinav Bindra said on Twitter regarding the wrestlers’ protest: “As a nation, we have a responsibility to protect every athlete who represents our flag. We have a responsibility to everyone to be mentally and physically safe on and off the field.
(with inputs from Sharad Deep)