New Delhi, January 18
Leading women wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, today accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment.
Got death threat
Got threat calls from someone close to Singh. Will disclose the name at right time. Vinesh Phogat, Wrestler
Open to probe
I am willing to talk to the wrestlers ... I am ready to face any inquiry. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, WFI Chief
They made the allegations at a press conference at Jantar Mantar. They were sitting on a dharna against what they termed “dictatorial” working of the WFI. Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, Sonam Malik, Anshu Malik, Amit Dhankar and Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers present at the dharna. They demanded Brij Bhushan’s removal from the post and requested PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene in the matter. The government has sought a report in 72 hours.
"We will not compete in any international competition till the president is removed," Punia said.
Phogat, who had opened up about suffering from depression after failure at the Tokyo Olympics, alleged she had received death threats from “someone in the federation” because she had met PM Modi and complained against Brij Bhushan. “Some coaches in the national camp sexually harass wrestlers and misbehave with their female counterparts. I had complained against one, but he is still part of the camp as chief coach,” she alleged.
“Even the WFI president has sexually harassed many girls,” claimed Phogat, a two-time World Championships medallist. “At least this has happened with over 100 girls… There are one or two here who have been sexually harassed,” the Haryana grappler alleged. When asked why they were speaking about this issue only now, Phogat said they were doing so to protect younger girls. “Over 10 girls have confided in me. They cannot come out in the open as they don’t have a strong background,” she said.
Sakshi alleged all women national camps were being held only in Lucknow to facilitate the harassment of wrestlers. “Why do you think all camps are being held in Lucknow? He (Brij Bhushan) has a house there. All this is being done at his behest,” she added.
Responding to the allegations, Brij Bhushan said, “There is no truth. Why should I quit? Even if one woman wrestler comes and proves the sexual harassment charge, I am ready to be hanged. There is an industrialist behind it (conspiracy). There can be an investigation by the CBI or police. There is no dictatorship.”
On “threats” to Phogat, Brij Bhushan said, “Why she did not talk to me or approached the police at that time? Why did she not meet the PM or the Sports Minister? Why is she saying this now?”
He claimed the new policy and the rules they had introduced were perhaps causing a bit of discomfort to the wrestlers and that’s why the protest.
Punia alleged the WFI chief’s “bad behaviour” with wrestlers was another reason for the open revolt. “He had once slapped a wrestler. A video of the incident had gone viral,” he said. Alleging embezzlement, he said, “We got sponsors some years ago. Only three-four top wrestlers got the money. Where did all the money go?”
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