Wrestlers' protest: In a major development, the father of a minor wrestler took a U-turn on Thursday and claimed he deliberately filed a false police complaint of sexual harassment against the WFI chief because he wanted to get back at the office for a perceived injustice against the girl. The startling admission by the father substantially weakens the case against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who has faced relentless protests for the past six months by top Indian wrestlers over allegations of sexual harassment of women competitors. The complaint by the minor wrestler has also led to an investigation under POCSO Act.
"It's better that truth comes out now instead of in the court," the father told PTI when asked why he is changing his story now.
He cannot be named to protect the identity of his minor daughter. He provided an elaborate explanation for the origin of his and his daughter's animosity against Singh, who has vehemently denied the sexual harassment allegations, including against the minor.
Why the wrestler's father took a decision to 'defame Brij Bhushan'
The origin of the father's supposed angst goes back to the 2022 Under-17 Asian Championship trials in Lucknow when the minor lost the final and missed out on selection to the Indian team. The father said he was enraged because his child's "one-year hard work had gone down the drain" because of that referee's decision in the final. "The match was against a Delhi wrestler. The UWW and WFI rules were not followed (in the bout). I have no grudge against the Delhi wrestler. She is also like my daughter but the referee who was also from Delhi deliberately defeated my daughter," he said.
Asked why he directed his anger towards Singh when the alleged bias was shown by the referee, he said, "Who had deputed the referee? It was the federation. And who is the head of the federation? So who I will be angry with?" Asked why such serious allegations were levelled against the WFI boss for the defeat of just one bout, the father of the wrestler explained his rationale. "You think that it's just one bout and probably it does not matter. But it is hard work of one year. The kid who is making a comeback after undergoing spinal surgery and has worked hard, practising for hours every day, knows the worth of that one bout.
"Father of the wrestler knows the value of that one bout"
"The father of the wrestler knows the value of that one bout. Because of that one bout, we missed out on four international tours and probably four medals," he said.
The Rohtak man also insisted that he and his daughter were not influenced by the protesting wrestlers. "No one approached me. We were wrong so it was our decision. They were also wronged and wrong is wrong."
He did not reveal how he and the protesting wrestlers negotiated. "Let a few things remain official. There are a few things which are personal."
Asked again what made him change his mind and withdraw the charges, he said it was an assurance from the authorities. "Now that interactions have started, the government has promised fair enquiry into my daughter's defeat (in Asian U17 championship trials) last year, so it is also my duty that I rectify my mistake," he said. "It's better that things become clear now instead of in the court. When I was talking to the Federation, they also agreed that a wrong decision was made and promised action. They had refused (action) at that time. "It was not a small matter, so I had to be angry. I have no enmity with anyone, or that girl (winning wrestler from Delhi). She is like my daughter."
What WFI Chief says?
Singh, the outgoing WFI chief, reacting to this sudden change of heart by the father of the minor, said he won't hold grudges against anyone. "The girl was led into this mistake. She was manipulated by the wrestlers who are protesting against me. So, I don't have any grudge either against her or her family," Singh told PTI. "I won't demand any action against this family. It is just a plot to defame me." The father also clarified that it was entirely his decision to file a complaint against the WFI chief and not his daughter's. "It was my decision, I am the father, I was angry at him but I told her 'my child, these are the kind of discussions taking place' and she said 'Papa aap dekhlo (Dad, you take care of it).'"
He is hoping that his daughter will get justice. "I have given proper video evidence and proof of that (disputed) bout. I will never get that one year back. During all this controversy, she lost a bout (U17 trials in Sonepat) on June 5 and went into depression. Can those times come back?" He also insisted that his daughter is a minor, rejecting speculations that she is overaged. "My daughter is a minor, that's it. What is there to believe that she is a minor, she indeed is minor." He, however, did not say if he'd prepared to face possible consequences of filing a false complaint, which is a punishable offence.
The Delhi Police, which has recorded statements of over 200 people in connection with the case, will file a chargesheet in the case by June 15, as per the assurance Sports Minister Anurag Thakur has given to the protesting wrestlers. The wrestlers have agreed to halt their protest by then.
(With inputs from PTI)