Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia wrote to Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha on Friday about “sexual harassment” complaints against Wrestling Federation India president Brij Bhushan Saran Singh. In a letter to IOA President Usha, the star grapplers accused the WFI president of sexual exploitation and financial irregularities.
The letter signed by Bajrang Punia, Phogat, Malik, Dahiya and Deepak Punia demands the resignation of the WFI chief and the formation of a commission of inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations.
— Vinesh Phogat (@Phogat_Vinesh) January 20, 2023
On Thursday, several of the country’s ace wrestlers, including Phogat, Malik and Bajrang Punia, took part in the sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital that began on Wednesday.
Wrestlers have made allegations of sexual harassment of female wrestlers by the WFI president and his coaches and of mismanagement in the federation’s functioning. They demanded a complete overhaul of the federation.
Indian wrestler and Commonwealth Games medalist Vinesh Phogat claimed on Wednesday on the first day of the protest that coaches favored by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) misbehave and harass women. She also accused wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually harassing girls and calling her a ‘khota sikka’ after her defeat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
On the sidelines of a sit-in protest against the WFI near Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Phogat said on Wednesday: “Coaches harass women and some coaches, who are federation favorites, also behave badly towards female coaches. sexually harass girls. The WFI president has sexually harassed many girls.”
However, the WFI chief on Wednesday refuted allegations of sexual assault by the wrestlers against him.
Singh denied the wrestlers’ claims of their assault, saying “I read that the head coach’s name has also been used in assault allegations. I also read that the reason why the players camp is held in Lucknow is that they are at can call me at home.I do have a house in Lucknow but I hardly live there.My house is 120-130 km away from Lucknow.All allegations of sexual harassment are false and I will commit suicide if they are found to be true. I tried to get in touch with the wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, but I couldn’t.”
Meanwhile, some wrestlers met with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur late last night on the matter that stretched into the wee hours of today.
Later in the day, under pressure to resign over allegations of sexual exploitation of female wrestlers, WFI chairman Singh said he will “expose” the “political conspiracy” at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Singh, who is also a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh, said in a Facebook post that he will hold a press conference at the Wrestling Training Center in Nawabganj in the Gonda district of the state.
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