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Delhi: Prominent Wrestlers Protest Against Sexual Exploitation, Harassment in Wrestling Federation

Indian wrestlers' protest against Wrestling Federation of India President and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh continue at Jantar Mantar for the second day on Thursday, January 19, as a silent fast.

More than 30 wrestlers of the country, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia, who have won many medals for India in the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, have accused the federation of sexual exploitation, atrocities and conspiracy.

At present, the Union Sports Ministry has directed the Wrestling Federation to respond within 72 hours seeking clarification on the matter. At the same time, the camp for women wrestlers, which was to start in Lucknow on January 18, has also been cancelled.

Brij Bhusan Sharan Singh, who became MP from Gonda for the first time in 1991, is counted among the domineering leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is also the President of the Wrestling Federation since 2011. In 2019, he was elected the President of the Wrestling Federation for the third time. Now even after the serious allegation of women wrestlers, no action has been taken against them by the party.


The Wrestling Federation of India suddenly came into the news on Wednesday, January 18, when the famous wrestlers of the country sat on a dharna against the federation at Jantar Mantar in the capital Delhi. These wrestlers have accused Singh of running the Wrestling Federation arbitrarily. Women wrestlers sitting on dharna have also made serious allegations of sexual harassment against the federation president.

Vinesh Phogat, a gold medalist in the 2022 Common Wealth Games, said in the press conference that coaches are harassing women and some favourite coaches of the federation even misbehave with women coaches. Vinesh emotionally told that the President of the Wrestling Federation of India has sexually abused many girls.


Phogat speaking to the media at the protest site, said, "The president interferes in our personal life; they are exploiting us. When we go to play in the Olympics, we do not get a physio or a coach, and when we raise our voices, they start threatening us. We are subjected to so much mental torture that I am told that I am mentally weak. Every athlete knows what we are going through. If anything happens to any of our players, it will be the responsibility of our federation."

Sakshi Malik, who won India a medal in the Summer Olympics 2016, told the media that the tournament is scheduled monthly, and if a player cannot play for any reason, they are banned. She added that the players work hard to win medals for the country, but the federation does nothing but let them down. The players are being harassed by the federation by imposing rules and regulations as per their wishes.

Bajrang Punia, who won a bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics 2020, told the media, "We want a change in the federation. Wrestlers are being harassed by the Wrestling Federation of India. Those who are part of the WFI should know about the sport. They don't know anything."


On the allegations made by the wrestlers, Singh claimed he was innocent. Claiming that no athlete has been sexually assaulted, he also said, "If this allegation turns out to be true, I am ready to be hanged,"

Singh termed Vinesh Phogat's allegations baseless and said, "She has no evidence for the allegations. No man can say that athletes are being harassed in the wrestling association. There must be someone. She had no problem with the federation for 10 years."


Delhi Commission for Women has also taken cognisance of this performance of wrestling players. DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal met these players and said, "These players had increased the glory of our tricolour, and it is a matter of great sadness that today they have to sit on the road in this cold winter. We stand firmly with them."


Jagmati Sangwan, an international volleyball player and vice-president of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), has also released a video calling for a demonstration in Chandigarh on January 22 with more than 15 organisations showing solidarity with these women wrestlers. Sangwan says that she has been protesting for the last 15 days, demanding the arrest of BJP leader Sandeep Singh in Haryana, but the entire government machinery, including the Chief Minister, is trying to save him. She said it was time to stand with the women players of Haryana and the country.

It may be noted that Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and many other players are sitting on a dharna at Delhi's Jantar Mantar till the news is written.

A delegation of wrestlers was called for talks with the Sports Ministry. They were not satisfied with the ministry’s response and plan to continue the protest.

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