This Article is From Jun 02, 2023

"Father Ki Tarah, He Told Me": Wrestlers' Charges Against Federation Chief

The wrestlers, who have been demanding the federation chief's removal and an overhaul of the wrestling body, accused him of intimidation and sexual harassment in the "most inappropriate and atrocious manner".

The FIRs are based on the complaints of seven women wrestlers at a Delhi police station last month.

New Delhi:

BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh allegedly groped women athletes, asked inappropriate personal questions, demanded sexual favours to back their careers, brushed his hands across a minor's breast and stalked her, two First Information Reports, or FIRs, against him say. Mr Singh is also accused of creating problems for, and denying professional opportunities to, those who rejected his alleged sexual advances.

Based on the complaints of seven women wrestlers at Delhi's Connaught Place police station last month, the two FIRs -- one combining complaints of six adult wrestlers, and a separate one based on the complaint of a minor's father -- were filed on April 28. The written complaints were submitted on April 21. The FIRs list various alleged incidents, from different places in India and abroad, from 2012 to 2022.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct. On Wednesday, he issued a defiant statement, once again refuting all charges.

"If a single allegation against me is proven, I will hang myself. If you (wrestlers) have any evidence, present it to the Court, and I am ready to accept any punishment," he said.

The wrestlers, who have been demanding the federation chief's removal and an overhaul of the wrestling body, accused him of intimidation and sexual harassment in the "most inappropriate and atrocious manner". Some of the complainants have also claimed that the device that was used to video record their depositions was being switched on and off again. The entire statement may not have been recorded, or tampered with, to favour the accused, one of them has said.

All the women athletes travelled in groups whenever they left their rooms to avoid running into the accused (Brij Bhushan Singh) alone, one of the complainants has claimed, adding that he singled out athletes from their groups and asked inappropriate personal questions they were uncomfortable answering.

"I was called by the accused (Mr Singh) who pulled up my T-shirt, slid his hand down my stomach, and put his hand on my navel on the pretext of checking my breath," one of the complainants said. She also claimed that the BJP MP offered her an "unknown edible" not approved by her dietician or coach, saying it would be good for her health and performance.

Another complainant said when she suffered an injury during a competition abroad, Mr Singh allegedly said the federation would bear the cost of her treatment if she gave in to his sexual advances.

"While I was lying down on the mat, the accused (Singh) came near me and to my shock and surprise leaned in and, in the absence of my coach, without seeking my permission pulled up my T-shirt, placed his hand on my breast and slid it down my stomach on the pretext of examining/checking my breathing," another award-winning wrestler said in her complaint.

All the complainants have described a similar pattern of inappropriate touching and molestation.

“One day while I was out for dinner in the hotel restaurant, the accused (Mr Singh) called me separately to his dinner table…to my utter shock and surprise and without my consent, placed his hand on my breast and groped me and then slid his hand down to my stomach. To my disbelief, the accused (Mr Singh) did not stop there and again moved his hand upwards to my breast. He groped my breast and then slid down his hand to my stomach and then back to my breast repeatedly for 3-4 times,” another complaint reads.

One of the wrestlers has accused Mr Singh of trying to bribe her by offering to buy her supplements which she may require as an athlete, in exchange for sexual favours. She also said Mr Singh hugged her forcefully when he made her talk to her parents on the phone.

"He made me talk to my parents on the phone, since at that time I did not possess a personal mobile phone. However after the phone call ended, to my utter shock and surprise, the accused called me towards his bed where he was sitting and then all of a sudden, he hugged me forcefully without my permission. Due to the physical advances made by the accused towards me without my consent, I got extremely uncomfortable as I did not like the same and I started crying. Upon noticing my displeasure and resistance, the accused in order to cover up his immoral acts and ill intentions told me that nahi nahi, father ki tarah (no, no, like a father)," she said.

The complainant further stated that Brij Bhushan Singh started calling her mother in order to contact her and further harass her.

"To my horror, I realised that the accused had cleverly saved my mother's mobile number when he had made me speak to my parents on an earlier occasion after the bout. In spite of being well aware of my resistance and clear intention of thwarting inappropriate physical advances of any sort, the accused repeatedly tried to contact me by calling on my mother's mobile number. The accused asked inappropriate questions on the phone call. He used to ask, 'Mein kalsa lag raha tha aaj (how was I looking today)', 'practice kaisi chal rhi hai, mereko bata dio agar kuch chahiye ho toh (how's practice going? Let me know if you need anything).' All the constant calling and questioning by the accused made me and my mother very uncomfortable," she said.

Repeated "forceful and indecent advances" by the accused compelled her to get a new number, she further said. 

"My mother used to get constant calls from the accused, however, she stopped answering them after a point of time," she added.

Another wrestler accused Mr Singh of touching her buttock while posing for a team photograph.

"While I was standing in the last row (for team photograph)... the accused (Mr Singh) came and stood alongside me. I suddenly felt a hand on my buttock. I was stunned by the actions of the accused (Mr Singh) while they were highly indecent and objectionable and without my consent... when I tried moving away, I was forcibly held by my shoulder," she said.

Vinod Tomar, Secretary of the wrestling federation, has also been accused by one of the wrestlers of forcing himself on her inside his Delhi office.

"On my visit to the federation office... I was called into the room of the accused (Mr Tomar)... my brother, who was accompanying me, was categorically asked to stay back...The accused (Mr Tomar), upon the departure of other persons, closed the door... pulled me towards himself and tried making forceful physical contact with me," the complainant has said.

Both the FIRs cite IPC Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking) and 34 (common intention), which carry a jail term of one to three years.

The FIR based on the complaint of a minor's father also invokes Section 10 of the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), which entails five to seven years of imprisonment.

The father said Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, "on the pretext of taking a picture with my daughter, forcefully pulled her towards himself and held her so tightly by her arms that she could not move or free herself from his grip."

"...the accused further squeezed her towards himself and pressed really hard on her shoulder, and then deliberately slid his hand down her shoulder and brushed his hands against her breasts. While doing so, he also told her that 'tu mereko support kar, main tereko support karunga. Mere sath touch me rehna' (You support me, and I will support you. Keep in touch with me)," the minor's father further said.

"She clearly told the accused (Mr Singh) she had already told him that she was not interested in having any sort of physical relationship and that he should stop stalking her...," the minor's complaint added.