Brij Bhushan to step aside till probe over: Anurag Thakur on WFI sexual harassment scandal

An oversight committee will have to submit its report within 4 weeks. The name of the members of this committee is likely to be announced on Saturday.

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By: Somi Das | New Delhi
Updated: 21 January, 2023 10:33 am IST
Union Sports Minister is flanked by Babita Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and other top wrestles of the country on Saturday at his residence

BJP Kaiserganj MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will step aside from the functioning of the Wrestling Federation of India pending investigation by an oversight committee into allegations of sexual harassment against him, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters on Friday.

The decision was taken following a midnight meeting between the Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and other protesting wrestlers at the minister’s residence.

The protesting wrestlers agreed upon the Committee formation and also decided to call off their protest.

The oversight committee will have to submit its report within 4 weeks, till then WFI president Brij Bhushan will step aside and will not be involved in the day-to-day functioning of the wrestling federation.

“The Committee will enquire into the allegations of sexual misconduct, financial irregularities, and administrative lapses made by prominent sportspersons,” said Thakur.

“The committee will undertake the day-to-day administration of the WFI, and revisit the issues raised by the players. The committee will complete the inquiry in 4 weeks and till then, WFI President will step aside from the day-to-day functioning. He has assured to cooperate in the investigation,” said Thakur.

The name of the members of this committee is likely to be announced on Saturday.

Earlier, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also set up a seven-member committee that includes two lawyers and legendary sportsmen to probe the sexual harassment allegation. Legendary boxer MC Mary Kom is made a head of the seven-member committee.

While Mary Kom is named as the chairperson of the committee, former shuttler and IOA joint secretary Alaknanda Ashok is named as the vice chairperson.

Members of the committee include London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, World Cup gold medallist archer Dola Banerjee, Indian Weightlifting Federation president Sahdev Yadav, along with advocates Shlok Chandra and Talish Ray.

Top wrestlers in the country, which include Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and former World No. 1 Vinesh Phogat, began a protest at Jantar Mantar demanding the removal of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.

The protesting wrestlers also levelled serious allegations, which include sexual harassment and death threats, against the UP strongman.

Earlier in the day, the agitating wrestlers reached out to the IOA, demanding the formation of an inquiry committee to probe the allegations against Singh.

In a letter addressed to the IOA president, the wrestlers alleged financial misappropriation (of funds) on the part of the WFI and claimed that the coaches and sports science staff at the national camp are “absolutely incompetent”.

The formation of the committee also fulfilled one of the key demands of the agitating wrestlers. It is learned that their other three demands — the resignation of WFI chief Singh, the dissolution of WFI, and the formation of a new committee to manage affairs of the federation in consultation with athletes are also under consideration.

“An urgent meeting of the IOA Executive Council was called today at 5.45 pm online, which lasted till 7.30 pm to address the grievances received through a letter from five athletes, namely: Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia,” IOA said.

“The EC meeting was also attended by Abhinav Bindra, IOC Athletes Commission Member and Shiva Keshavan, Athletes Commission Member, as special invitees,” the association said.

The IOA also said that a detailed discussion was held on the letter received from the athletes and all the members, including special invitees, presented their views and suggestions. It was unanimously agreed that IOA must not get carried away by media trials.

“The EC unanimously decided that a seven-member committee will be formed in accordance with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women Act of 2013 and must hear both sides and submit a report to the IOA president,” an IOA member said.

Instructions were also given to the committee to meet at the earliest possible date. The EC also appreciates the activities and initiatives taken by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and awaits its report on the matter.

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