Top wrestlers allege harassment by wrestling federation chief

India’s top wrestlers, including two Olympic medallists, rebelled against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Wednesday, accusing its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of running the body in a “dictatorial” manner, and alleging “sexual exploitation and mental harassment” at national camps. In an unprecedented sit-in at the Capital’s Jantar Mantar area, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, and two-time world championships medallist Vinesh Phogat led a group of around 30 wrestlers. In a media conference at the venue, they demanded the immediate removal of Singh to “save wrestling from his clutches”. Wrestling is India’s most successful individual Olympic sport with seven medals, including two at Tokyo in 2021.

The protesting wrestlers alleged that Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BP) MP from Kaiserganj, Uttar Pradesh, in his third term as federation president (his tenure ends this year), has been running the body as his fiefdom. They also accused him of “sexual harassment” and using “abusive language” against wrestlers.

The wresters — the group included young stars Anshu Malik, the 2021 world championships silver medallist, and Tokyo Olympian Sonam Malik — said they will take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.

Speaking to reporters hours later, Singh denied the accusations of sexual harassment, and alleged the revolt was part of a “conspiracy” to unseat him.

Vinesh said during the sit-in that she was “mentally tortured” after the Tokyo Olympics, where she lost in the quarterfinals. She alleged that she received death threats from people in the federation because she had complained about the conditions in the sport to the Prime Minister during a meeting. “The WFI president is a very powerful man and wrestlers are scared to talk against him. Now we have gathered courage because the situation is going out of hand,” said Vinesh. She also alleged that “girls are sexually exploited” at the women’s national camp in Lucknow.

“Coaches are sexually harassing girls and ill-treat women coaches in the camp. I am not saying this about all the coaches but a few of them who are close to the federation chief. I complained against the chief coach Jitender Yadav but despite that he has not been removed. WFI president has sexually exploited girls,” Vinesh said.         Source: HT

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