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Wrestlers return to protest site; demand release of panel report on sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief

Country's top wrestlers Phogat returned to Jantar Mantar and demanded that the government makes public the findings of the investigations into sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief.

Wrestlers return to protest site; demand release of panel report on sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief

Indian wrestlers at Jantar Mantar as they restart their protest (Pritish Raj/TheBridge)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 23 April 2023 1:20 PM GMT

Country's top wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, returned to protest site Jantar Mantar on Sunday and demanded that the government makes public the findings of the oversight panel that investigated into sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The wrestlers, surrounded by a huge posse of police personnel, also demanded that an FIR be lodged against the WFI boss, who has denied the allegations that first surfaced in January this year when grapplers had staged a 'sit-in' protest and demanded that federation be disbanded.

The six-member oversight panel, headed by legendary boxer MS Mary Kom, had submitted its report in the first week of April but the government has not yet made it public.

"How long is it going to take for the (government) committee to submit its report. It's already been three months and we are still waiting to hear from them. Will the report come out after the girls, who have filed complaints, die?," questioned Vinesh, the world championship medallist.

"We are tired of asking the government to release the findings. We have filed a complaint at a police station in Connaught Place and want an FIR to be filed against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. We have nothing to do with the (WFI) election process. We are more concerned about our careers. The (Paris) Olympics are upon us and we want to begin preparations in right earnest," she added.

Singh, who has completed 12 years as WFI president, has confirmed that he will not contest for the top post in the WFI election on May 7. However he had indicated that he may find a role for himself within the national federation.

"You people can see who is running the federation despite such serious charges. We only have the power of truth which I suppose is not sufficient," she said, adding, "The least the government can do is to take action on the sexual harassment that has been done. We demand justice. We will continue out protest."

During the three-month period since the country's top wrestlers made the allegations, Singh has appeared before the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the government's oversight panel.

However, multiple sources have confirmed that the wrestlers couldn't prove the sexual harassment charges against the WFI chief.

"We will not budge from Jantar Mantar," said Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, adding "this fight will not stop".

"The girls have appeared before the committee, but the report hasn't come. The federation is running as before, organising nationals in their region. So what has changed? The promises that were made to us when we first protested, not one of them has been fulfilled. Two day back, seven girls, including a minor, lodged a complaint in a CP police station. Despite that they are not taking us seriously, not lodging FIR. Don't know who is behind this laxity, because such sensitive issues are taken up on an urgent basis," said Sakshi.

Bajrang said it was his moral duty to stand up with the protesting women wrestlers.

"Agar hum inke saath nahin khade honge toh aur kaun khada hoga (If we don't stand up with them them who will?)," the Tokyo Games bronze medallist said.

"Even if I have to lay down my life for their cause, I am willing to go to that extent," he added.

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