Unhappy wrestlers seek PM’s intervention; threaten to file FIR if demands not met

Angry wrestlers said they will resume their protest again on Friday and may file an FIR if they do not get a suitable response

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By: Alok Singh
Updated: 19 January, 2023 6:12 pm IST

Continuing their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India for the second day, athletes on Thursday demanded the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Minister in the matter. Vinesh Phogat, who was the first to openly speak up against the culture of intimidation promoted by BJP Kaiserganj MP at the Wrestling Federation of India as its chief, said “If the country’s top Olympians and gold medalists players are saying that something wrong has happened, it should not be ignored. We should be trusted. We did not want to take the legal route, we had faith in the Prime Minister and the Home Minister that they would listen to us,” she said.

They are not happy with the response they have received from the authorities till now. “If an action is not taken quickly we do not hesitate from taking the legal route or filing an FIR. But that would be registered as a black day in India’s sporting history. I feel sad to admit that if Olympians and medal winners face such harassment in this country, a normal woman cannot be safe. No woman should be born in this country,” she added.

Narrating the ordeal of female wrestlers in India she said, “Something extremely wrong has happened to women wrestlers. Several women wrestlers can vouch for this. I challenge it, if Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh sits with me for 2 minutes and looks into his eyes, everything will be proven. UP’s women’s wrestling has been totally ruined because of such exploitation by the Federation.” she said.

Spelling out their demands clearly, the protesting wrestlers said that they are not just seeking the WFI’s resignation. “We want WFI as a sports body to be dissolved. What’s the point of resignation if the same people keep running the affairs,” said Bajrang Punia.

 

 

When asked if they have sought a meeting with the sports minister, both Bajrang Punia and Phogat said, “No, we have not sought a meeting with anyone. That time to seek time has gone. If the minister gives us the time we will be happy to share our ordeal with him.”

The wrestlers have wrapped up their protest for the day as they did not receive permission from Delhi Police to continue their agitation through the night. They will resume their protests tomorrow at Jantar Mantar.

Meanwhile, Babita Phogat, who is a gold medalist in the commonwealth games and a BJP leader came for a meeting with the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar. She acted as a mediator in ending the deadlock as she promised a solution within 72 hours. “The government stands with them and all wrestlers are together in this,” she told the media.

Top wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik have accused BJP MP and WFI president Brij Bhushan Saran Singh of sexual and mental harassment.

A defiant Bhushan, who is known to run the federation with strong-arm tactics, however, refuted all the charges, stating that a small group of players and a lobby were working against him. He also alleges that there is a conspiracy against him.

When grilled by the media, about whether he would step down from his position to allow a free and fair investigation into the matter, he said, “Why should I resign?”

A concerned Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made.

In its communication to WFI, the Ministry stated that “since the matter pertains to the well-being of athletes, the Ministry has taken a very serious view of the matter.”

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.

Further, the Women’s National Wrestling Coaching Camp, which was due to start in Sports Authority of India’s National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Lucknow on January 18 with 41 wrestlers and 13 coaches and support staff, has been cancelled.

The Executive Director of NCOE Lucknow has been directed to provide all facilities to national campers who have already reported or are likely to report until the campers depart from the centre. All necessary information regarding the cancellation of the National Coaching Camp has also been sent to all campers.

 

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