Why are Women Wrestlers Protesting Against WFI President Brij Bhushan & What Will Govt Do Now?

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The Delhi Commission for Women on Wednesday issued notices to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the town police after wrestler Vinesh Phogat accused BJP MP and Wresting Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually exploiting ladies wrestlers. And sources on Wednesday instructed News18 that the Sports minister is mulling to create a three-member committee to look into the allegations.

The DCW stated it has taken suo moto cognisance of media stories about allegations of sexual harassment made towards the president of Wrestling Federation of India and a few wrestling coaches, the panel stated. The panel has additionally requested police to register an FIR within the matter.

But what’s the matter and why did the wrestlers protest at Jantar Mantar?

In an unprecedented transfer, the nation’s prime wrestlers, together with Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat, staged a protest towards the “dictatorship” of national federation President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Wednesday.

At the time, the wrestlers did not share the exact details of their grievances or their demands but it was clear that they are fed up with the way the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is being run by Singh, who is also a BJP MP from Kaiserganj.

Bajrang, Vinesh, Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at Jantar Mantar. “Our fight is not against the government or Sports Authority of India (SAI). This is against WFI. We will share details later in the day. ‘Yeh ab aar paar ki ladai hai’ (It’s a fight to the finish),” Bajrang Punia had instructed PTI.

New Delhi: Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik and Bajrang Punia sit on ‘dharna’ to protest towards the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

Bajrang’s help workers, together with his coach Sujeet Mann and physio Anand Dubey had additionally joined the protest. “The dictatorship is not going to be tolerated,” said another wrestler.

Later in the day, a crying Vinesh Phogat alleged that Brij Bhushan has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator and BJP MP.

Vinesh, who has been at loggerheads with WFI since the Tokyo Olympic Games, also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow have also exploited women wrestlers, adding there are a few women at the camp who approached the wrestlers at the behest of the WFI President.

The 28-year-old though clarified that she herself never faced such exploitation but claimed that “one victim” was current on the ‘dharna’ they started at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.

So disturbed was Vinesh that she together with Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia had even met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to flag their points about three months again.

Vinesh additionally claimed that she had acquired demise threats on the behest of WFI President from officers near him as a result of she dared to attract Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s consideration to a number of points plaguing Indian wrestling when she met him after the Tokyo Games.

“I do know a minimum of 10-20 ladies wrestlers who’ve instructed me concerning the sexual exploitation they confronted by the hands of (the) WFI President. They instructed me their tales. I can’t take their names now however I can undoubtedly reveal the names if we get to fulfill the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the nation,” Vinesh stated addressing the media after staging a four-hour ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar.

“I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible.” Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik had been amongst 30 wrestlers who assembled on the well-known protest website.

What Has Brij Bhushan Said?

Singh has been on the helm since 2011. He was elected President of WFI for the third consecutive time in February 2019. The sitting BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh rejected all the costs towards him and refused to give up his put up.

“There isn’t any fact in any of the allegations. Why ought to I give up? Even if one girl wrestler comes and proves the sexual harassment cost, I’m able to be hanged. There is an industrialist behind it (conspiracy),” stated the 66-year-old WFI President.

“There can be an investigation by the CBI or police. There is no dictatorship. These same wrestlers had met me a week back and did not say anything,” he added.

Responding to the allegation of demise threats given to Vinesh on his behalf, Brij Bhushan stated, “Why Vinesh didn’t speak to me or approached the police at the moment? Why did she not meet the PM or the Sports Minister? Why is she saying this now.” The WFI boss indicated that the new policy and the rules they have introduced are perhaps causing a bit of discomfort to the wrestlers and that’s why the protest.

He said the wrestlers are being asked to compete in the National Championships and appear in trials for fair selection, and there is nothing wrong in it.

“Different states host Nationals and all want the country’s best athletes to compete. None of these wrestlers has competed in the Nationals. We have made it clear that only those athletes who compete and win at the National Championship will be selected for the National camp.

“The state of Haryana has been the pride of the country but we want to take wrestling to other states also. So we stopped the arrangements of states sending multiple teams at the Nationals,” Brij Bhushan stated.

“States like Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram are weak and we have to promote the sport there. So we launched National Open Championships other than the common Nationals and there additionally Haryana claimed 61 per cent of the medals,” he said, adding that a certain Tirath Rana was also misleading the wrestlers.

Tirat Rana is a former wrestler who had tried to get into Haryana Wrestling Association but the sports body was suspended by WFI and later a new association, which had the backing of national federation, was formed.

Vinesh said she is labelled an indisciplined athlete because she dares to speak her mind.

“I am being tortured every day.” Asked why they didn’t elevate the problems earlier than, Vinesh stated, “These are highly effective, influential folks. We couldn’t muster braveness. Now we weren’t left with any choice. ‘Ab paani sar se paar ho raha hai’ (the restrict has been reached). We have to consider the following technology of gamers as nicely.” Adding to it, Bajrang said, “We are approaching the end of our careers. For how long will we play? 2024, 2026 or maybe 2028 but it is a question of the entire wrestling fraternity.” It could also be recalled that the WFI, whereas taking disciplinary motion towards Vinesh for not carrying the official singlet throughout the Tokyo Games, had banned her however later lifted it after receiving a written apology from the athlete.

Vinesh stated she didn’t put on that singlet as a result of it was “zero high quality.” Explaining his position, the WFI President said that they were facing action from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for flouting the rules and he had to take action against Vinesh out of compulsion because he did not want a ban on India.

What Has the Govt Said?

Sources told News18 that the sports ministry is considering forming a three-member committee to investigate allegations of sexual harassment by female wrestlers against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India. Women wrestlers will be able to “share their concerns better” if the committee has two feminine representatives.

The sports activities ministry demanded a proof from the Wrestling Federation of India on Wednesday after Olympic wrestlers corresponding to Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik, and Bajrang Punia protested the WFI’s operation. The ministry acknowledged that it has taken a “very critical view of the matter” as a result of it considerations the athletes’ security. Read extra on the story right here

Taking note of the allegations, the sports ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to “furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made”.

The ministry stated, “if WFI fails to furnish the reply throughout the subsequent 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to provoke motion towards the federation by way of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.” In view of the developments, the ministry has also cancelled the National camp, which was due to start SAI centre in in Lucknow from Wednesday.

With inputs from PTI

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