New Delhi, June 2
An Olympian woman wrestler had informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the alleged sexual harassment by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in 2021 and was assured of action, according to an FIR lodged by the protesting grapplers against the Kaiserganj BJP MP.
Was assured of swift action
I informed the PM about the repeated sexual, emotional, psychological and physical trauma. He assured me the Sports Ministry will look into the grievances and I will shortly get a call — One of the wrestlers in FIR
The wrestler, as per the FIR, took up the matter personally with PM Modi during an event to honour the sportspersons about two years ago. “I informed the PM about the repeated sexual, emotional, psychological and physical trauma meted out to me and other female wrestlers by the accused in connivance with his close aides. The PM assured me that the Sports Ministry will look into the grievances and I will shortly get a call from the ministry,” reads one of the two FIRs lodged on April 28 against the WFI chief.
The two FIRs were registered by the Delhi Police on the complaints of six adult wrestlers and the father of a minor. These narrate several alleged instances of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, groping, stalking and intimidation by the WFI chief since 2012 at different locations during tournaments in India and abroad, and even in his office.
Brij Bhushan has denied the allegations on more than one occasion. “If a single allegation against me is proved, I will hang myself. If wrestlers have any evidence, present it to the court. I am ready to accept any punishment,” he had said on Wednesday.
Lodged following directions from the Supreme Court, one of the FIRs invokes POCSO Act that entails a prison term up to seven years. Some of the complainants also alleged that the WFI chief made advances to seek “sexual favours” while promising to help them professionally. A player alleged that she even thought of dying by suicide due to the mental trauma.
An FIR also mentions that the accused had told a wrestler that the federation was willing to bear the expenses of her treatment “provided she gave in to his sexual advances”.
In the absence of any sports code of conduct for female athletes, the WFI president would call the grapplers to his hotel room or office. “He used to call girls to his room alone late at night, which indicated his ill-intentions. As the accused was always on the lookout to engage us in inappropriate talk or gestures, all the girls, including myself, collectively agreed not to go alone for breakfast, lunch or dinner or for any other purposes for which we might have to leave the hotel room,” alleged one of the wrestlers.
One of the players narrated an incident in Lucknow where the accused posed with the grapplers for a photograph. “I suddenly felt a hand on my buttock. I immediately looked back and to my horror, it was the accused. I was stunned by the action,” she alleged.
One of the wrestlers who had won a gold medal at a multi-sporting event said, “While I was lying down on the mat, the accused came near me. To my shock, he leaned in and, in the absence of my coach and without my permission, pulled up my T-shirt, placed his hand on my breast and slid it down my stomach on the pretext of checking my breathing. He said ‘main dekhna chahata hun teri sans kaisi chal rhi hai’ (want to check your breathing),” she alleged.
Another wrestler was allegedly sexually harassed abroad during an Olympics qualification event in 2016. “I was out for dinner in the hotel restaurant when the accused called me to his table where he was sitting alone. To my shock and without my consent, he placed his hand on my breast and groped me and then slid his hand down to my stomach. To my disbelief, the accused did not stop there and again moved his hand upwards to my breast. He groped my breast and then slid down his hand to my stomach and then back to my breast repeatedly three-four times,” reads the FIR.
1983 cricket World Cup team backs grapplers
Members of the 1983 cricket World Cup winning team on Friday came out in support of the protesting wrestlers and urged them not to take any hasty decision while hoping that players’ issues would be “heard and resolved”.
Brij Bhushan denied nod for Ayodhya rally
Ayodhya: The district administration has denied permission to BJP MP Brij Bhushan for a rally here on June 5. The WFI chief, however, said he had postponed the ‘Jan Chetna Maharally’ at Ram Katha Park for ‘a few days’.
He cited the ongoing police probe into the wrestlers’ allegations against him as the reason. The administration said the request for the rally was rejected in view of events scheduled on World Environment Day on June 5. — PTI
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