Wrestlers protest: The tussle between protesting wrestlers and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh continued for the third day with more allegations and counter-allegations.
The late-night meeting between protesting wrestlers and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur failed to bring any truce on Thursday. However, it was expected that the second meeting, underway at Thakur's residence, may bring a breakthrough in the ongoing dangal.
Protesting wrestler Vinesh Phogat reiterates allegations
"We are presenting all issues. Had it been only about wrestling, the matter would have been resolved in an hour-long meeting. But it's a big issue. It's not about just one but several girls. We can't disclose openly, we would be threatening their lives and families that way," wrestler Vinesh Phogat said at Jantar Mantar on Friday.
We have proof- a 30 minutes audio of harassment, she added.
Eyes on IOA
Indian Olympic Association is a key stakeholder in the ongoing row as it reserves the rights to dismiss WFI president and it can disband the federation as well. Technically, it's IOA not the Sports Ministry who can take a direct action in the matter. Top officials of IOA are slated to hold a crucial meeting shortly.
'Why should I resign?' says defiant WFI president
A defiant WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Friday scrapped all the allegations leveled against him and said that there is no question of resignation. Country's top wrestlers have accused the WFI president of sexual exploitation and intimidation and continued their dharna for the third day as more grapplers joined them in what they called was a fight to give "a new life to Indian wrestling.
While speaking with the reporters, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said, "Why should I resign?... I have not had a talk with anyone yet. I am not sitting here because of anyone's mercy, but after being elected by the public."
"Stay arrangements are made by organizers and each country's team is kept at a separate place. The (woman) wrestler who alleged that the door was open was not in that tournament," Singh added.
IOA president PT Usha steps in
The protesting wrestlers wrote a letter to the Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha. The letter, which is signed by the likes of Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, accuses the Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh to have sexually harassed several young wrestlers. The letter also lists four demands.
In the demands, the letter states, "We request the IOA to immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment, resignation of the WFI President, dissolution of the WFI, and a new committee should be formed to run the affairs of the WFI in consultation with the wrestlers."
The letter also mentions that wrestler Vinesh Phogat was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI president after she missed bagging a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and she almost contemplated suicide. The wrestlers mention that "there has been financial misappropriation on the part of WFI." They also state that coaches and sports science staff in the national camp are "absolutely incompetent and not on merit." Notably, the letter states that there has been no political party or industrialist involvement in the protest. The wrestlers say that they will not budge until the WFI President is sacked.
DCW chief Maliwal targets Ministry
The DCW chief Swati Maliwal has asked why the WFI President's resignation has not been sought. In a tweet, Maliwal wrote, "It has been 72 hours since the protest was launched by the Indian wrestlers. Why has the WFI president's resignation not been sought? Why is an FIR not being registered in connection with the sexual harassment allegations? Why is the sports minister not making efforts to end the protest? Till when will the pride of the country sit on the street like this?"
Earlier the IOA President PT Usha had stated that the athletes should come forward to voice their concerns. "As IOA President, I've been discussing the current matter of wrestlers with the members and for all of us, the welfare and well-being of the athletes is the top most priority of IOA. We request athletes to come forward and voice their concerns with us," Usha wrote on Thursday. She added, "We will ensure a complete investigation to ensure justice. We also have decided to form a special committee to deal with such situations that may arise in the future, for swifter action."
(With agency input)