Wrestlers’ protest: Mary Kom to head IOA committee to probe sexual harassment allegations

Athletes Yogeshwar Dutt, Dola Banerjee are also part of the seven-member IOA committee

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By: Alok Singh | NEW DELHI
Updated: 21 January, 2023 12:29 am IST
MC Mary Kom will head the seven-member IOA committee

Legendary boxer MC Mary Kom will head the seven-member committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to probe the allegations of sexual harassment levelled by wrestlers against the federation chief.

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.

Some of the 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 action and initiatives taken by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and awaits its report on the matter.

Meanwhile, the meeting between the protesting wrestlers and Union sports minister Anurag Thakur, at the residence of the latter, went on till midnight.

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