Wrestlers Want IOA to Form Probe Panel; ‘Won’t Quit’, Says WFI Chief, Compares Protest With Shaheen Bagh
Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh speaks with the media regarding recent allegations of sexual harassment against him, in Gonda district, Friday, Jan 20, 2023. Image Courtesy:PTI
Nandini Nagar (Gonda, UP)/New Delhi: Under-fire Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP member of Parliament Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Friday termed the protest by the country's top grapplers as "dharna of Shaheen Bagh" and reiterated that he won't quit from the post.
The agitating wrestlers on Friday reached out to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), demanding formation of an enquiry committee to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, a day after threatening to lodge multiple FIRs against the WFI chief.
However, Singh has stuck to his stand to not relinquish the post.
"The protest by wrestlers against me is the dharna of Shaheen Bagh," Singh, who is also a sixth-time Lok Sabha MP from UP's Kaisarganj constituency, told reporters in his native place here.
Singh also termed the protest in Delhi's Jantar Mantar an attack on BJP and orchestrated by the Congress party.
Earlier speaking to a TV channel, he had said, "The protesting players have become a toy in the hands of Congress and Deepender Hooda. This type of conspiracy was done against me by the Congress almost three decades ago. Once again the conspiracy has been repeated.
"I had earlier said that there was a conspiracy, and big powers are behind it. Now those forces are coming out in the open."
Singh is scheduled to hold a press conference at Nandini Nagar Stadium in Gonda later in the evening.
Wrestlers’ Write Letter to IOA
In a letter addressed to IOA President PT Usha, the wrestlers alleged financial misappropriation (of funds) on part of the WFI and claimed that the coaches and sports science staff at the National camp are "absolutely incompetent".
Putting forward four demands, the wresters wrote: "We request the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment."
The wrestlers also reiterated their demand that WFI be disbanded and its President be sacked.
"A new committee should be formed to run the affairs of WFI in consultation with the wrestlers," they wrote in their fourth and last demand.
The letter has been signed by five wrestlers -- Tokyo Olympics medallists Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia, Rio Games bronze winner Sakshi Malik and World Championship medallists Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia.
Further in their letter, the celebrated athletes pleaded, "It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against the WFI President. We fear for our lives. If he is not sacked then the careers of all the young who joined the dharna will be over."
They ended the letter by writing that "we will not budge until the WFI President is sacked.
Beijing Olympics bronze medallist boxer and now a Congress leader Vijender Singh also reached the protest site at Jantar Mantar, showing solidarity with the wrestlers.
Vinesh Phogat had on Thursday said that more woman wrestlers have come forward with their stories of sexual exploitation and they will file multiple FIRs against the WFI President.
They met government officials during the day and later had a dinner meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence after being called for discussion on the raging issue.
However, both the meetings remained inconclusive with the wrestlers adamant that WFI be dissolved immediately while the government requested them to end their protest. They are scheduled to meet Thakur on Friday for a second round of discussion.
The government has given WFI President 72 hours (till Saturday evening) to respond to the allegations.
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