Wrestlers demand WFI chief's sacking, minister says wait for probe
After a meeting with protesting wrestlers on Thursday night, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur assured them of strict action if any Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) coach or official is found guilty of sexual harassment. Wrestlers have been protesting for two days at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, demanding the removal of the WFI's chief and the dissolution of the wrestling body.
Why does this story matter?
- Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik accused WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual misconduct, causing a widespread uproar among the sports fraternity.
- The BJP MP has refuted all the charges against him and reportedly called Thakur to clarify his position on the matter. In response, the sports ministry has directed the WFI to respond to the harassment allegations within 72 hours.
Will initiate action if no reply within 72 hours: Government
The meeting at Thakur's residence began at 10 pm on Thursday and continued for nearly four hours until the early hours of Friday but ended without any resolution. Giving the WFI an ultimatum, the government has said that if a response isn't filed within the stipulated time, action will be initiated against the federation under the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.
Will lodge FIR against WFI chief: Protesting wrestlers
The parties are expected to meet again today. The protesting wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, also accused the WFI president and coaches of mismanaging the federation's operations. Two-time World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat earlier said that they didn't receive a satisfactory response from the government. The wrestlers have said that if Singh doesn't resign, they will lodge an FIR against him.
Don't want to disclose identity of victims yet: Wrestlers
On Thursday afternoon, the wrestlers said that five to six wrestlers had come forward with allegations. They added that they didn't want to disclose their identities, but if no resolution is reached, they will be forced to take the legal route. Meanwhile, Divya Kakran, an Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medalist, defended Singh, saying she hasn't had any such experience in her decade-long career.
Must be held accountable: Wrestler, BJP leader Babita Phogat
Champion wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat, who is currently Haryana Sports and Youth Affairs Department's deputy director, arrived at the protest site to mediate between the government and the protesting wrestlers. Addressing the crowd, she said that the WFI officials and coaches must be held accountable for sexually exploiting and harassing wrestlers and other athletes through its arbitrary rules and regulations.
Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
Singh has been the president of WFI for around 10 years and the United World Wrestling Asia's vice-president. He is a six-time MP and currently represents Uttar Pradesh's Kaiserganj. He reportedly spent his youth in the akharas of Ayodhya and was named in the Babri demolition case, as per his 2019 election affidavit. He reportedly has a reputation for being ill-tempered at various tournaments.