This Article is From Apr 24, 2023

Wrestlers' #MeToo Protest At Delhi's Jantar Mantar Reaches Supreme Court

Wrestlers Protest: "This time, all parties are welcome to join our protest whether it is BJP, Congress, AAP, or any other party," Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia said.

The wrestlers are protesting at Delhi's Jantar Mantar.

New Delhi:

India's top wrestlers today approached the Supreme Court seeking a fair probe into the sexual harassment complaints against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers, protesting at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, say that they will remain at the protest site till police file an FIR in the case. The athletes had called off their protest in January after assurances from the sports ministry, but are back at it as they claim that no action has been taken yet against the WFI chief.

"We will not believe anyone blindly. Last time we were misled. We hope this time there is no politics in this case," says Vinesh Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold at both the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

The protesters also said that this time they will not turn down anyone, and whoever wants to support their protest could come and join them. In January, the protesters had request left leader Brinda Karat to leave the stage as it was an "athletes protest".

"This time, all parties are welcome to join our protest whether it is BJP, Congress, AAP, or any other party. We are not affiliated with any party," Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia said.

Seven women wrestlers have filed a sexual harassment complaint against federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at the Connaught Place police station in Central Delhi. The protesting athletes claim that no action has been taken yet and they will continue their agitation till the police register an FIR in the case.

The wrestlers claim that they had ended their protest in January over "false assurances."

"We will sit here day and night. Till the time we don't get justice. We will sit here," Ms Phogat said, after spending the night on the footpath.

The Indian Olympic Association today announced the constitution of an ad-hoc committee to conduct elections of the Executive Committee of the Wrestling Federation of India within 45 days of its formation and to manage the day-to-day affairs of the body.

In January, the sports ministry formed a five-member committee, which was headed by Olympic medallist boxer MC Mary Kom, to investigate the complaints. The committee had been instructed to submit its findings within a month.

Wrestler Sakshee Malikkh expressed frustration over the report on the issue by the panel not being made public yet.

"We want the report, which has recorded women wrestlers' statements, to be public. It's a sensitive issue, one of the complainants is a minor girl," she said, adding that the names of the complainants must not be leaked.

The government panel submitted its report in the first week of April, but the ministry is yet to make its findings public. However, sources said the wrestlers could not prove the sexual harassment allegations against the WFI boss after several hearings.

Several wrestlers had gone public with the accusations against federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on January 18. The elite wrestlers had said they weren't satisfied after talks with the government and "won't wrestle another day" till their demands are met. Alleging mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, they demanded a complete overhaul of the federation.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has said that he will not contest for the president's post in the WFI election on May 7 but hinted that he might look for a new role within the federation. He has served three four-year terms as president in a row and according to the Sports Code after completing 12 years as WFI chief, he is ineligible to contest for the top post.

Delhi Police has registered seven complaints, but not an FIR, against the WFI president. An FIR will be registered after concrete evidence comes to light, a senior cop said.

"As part of inquiry, we have sought a report from the probe committee set up by Sports Ministry to look into the allegations of sexual harassment allegations levelled against WFI chief," he said.