The meeting of the Executive Committee and the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Wrestling Federation of India will be held on January 22 in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, the president of the federation, will also take part in the meeting. On Thursday, ace grapplers arrived at the office of the Union Sports Ministry in Shashtri Bhawan for a meeting with officials amid wrestlers’ protest against WFI and its chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh.
“We are going to meet the officials of Union Sports Ministry and will apprise the media about it once the meeting concludes,” said wrestler Bajrang Punia amid wrestlers’ protest against WFI at Jantar Mantar.
Earlier in the day, champion wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat arrived at the protest site at Jantar Mantar in Delhi where wrestlers continued their sit-in protest for the second day demanding action against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and other officials against alleged sexual exploitation of several athletes and “harassment of wrestlers by the WFI through its arbitrary rules and regulations”.
“I have assured them that the government is with them. I will try that their issues are resolved today,” Babita Phogat said after addressing the gathering.
Babita who is a deputy director in the Haryana Sports and Youth Affairs Department and a former wrestler had earlier tweeted, “I stand with all my fellow players in this matter of wrestling. I assure all of you that I will work to raise this issue with the government at every level, and the future will be decided the way players feel right.”
For the second day, Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, and Vinesh Phogat, among others gathered at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi and were joined by other members of the fraternity.
Notably, Vinesh Phogat had previously alleged that coaches who are favourites of the WFI misbehave with women and harass them. 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 the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Vinesh, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth and Asian Games, alleged, “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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, taking cognizance of the protest staged by wrestlers, including Olympic and Commonwealth Games (CWG) medalists, in Delhi in which women wrestlers have levelled serious charges of sexual harassment by the President and coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made.
The Ministry has further stated that if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.
Meanwhile, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Wednesday said wrestlers, who made allegations of sexual harassment against coaches, should have approached the Federation with their names earlier.
The WFI president said that 97 per cent of wrestlers are with the BFI and those protesting were pressured into it.
“97 per cent of players are with the WFI. I am hurt by the sexual harassment allegations. Not a single player can bring such charges against me or the chief coach. Some wrestlers were pressured to sit on a dharna,” Singh said.
He claimed that star wrestler Vinesh Phogat had demanded a few days back that the chief coach should be changed, but coaches cannot be changed on the whims of a player.
“A few days ago, in a meeting, Vinesh (Phogat) demanded that chief coach be changed. A coach can’t be changed on the whims and fancies of one player. We have to think about players from other states as well. They should have come with names of the coaches, who they claimed are involved in sexual harassment, earlier,” Bhushan told ANI.
He denied any incident of sexual harassment, claiming that if such an incident ever happened, he will hang himself.
“There has been no incident of sexual harassment. If such a thing has happened, then I will hang myself,” said the WFI president during a press conference.
He also said that he is ready for an investigation.
“Sexual harassment is a big allegation. How can I take action when my own name has been dragged into this? I am ready for an investigation,” he added.