Sunday, January 29, 2023

Adamant wrestlers meet Sports Minister; demand WFI be disbanded

Top Indian wrestlers refused to climb down from their stand that the government initiate immediate steps to disband the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) as quickly as possible, even as Sports Minister Anurag Thakur continued to find a solution to break the deadlock on Thursday night.
Celebrated Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat and others have been staging a sit-in protest for the last two days at Jantar Mantar here against WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual exploitation and intimidation.
On Thursday night, the protesting wrestlers led by Vinesh and Bajrang besides Sakshi, Anshu Malik, Ravi Dahiya, Sarita Mor, among others met Thakur at his residence and demanded speedy action.
The two sides were involved in a marathon meeting which continued late into the night, with the parties failing to find a tangible solution thus far.
According to sources, the government wants the wrestlers to end their protest but the athletes are adamant that the WFI should first be disbanded.
“The government can resolve other issues later… we are fine with that, but it must disband WFI first,” a source close to the wrestlers told PTI.
A team of wrestlers, including Bajrang, Vinesh, Anshu, Sakshi and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan had earlier in the day met government officials and discussed their issues with Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Director General SAI Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal.
During the one-hour meeting, the wrestlers were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed.
Meanwhile, the WFI is yet to respond to the ministry’s demand for an explanation within 72 hours, adding to the suspense.
The ministry, however, cannot force Brij Bhushan to resign unless it receives a written reply since the government itself had asked the WFI for an explanation. Former wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat is also part of the meeting to break the deadlock.
WFI emergency general council: It has been learnt that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has called for an Emergency General Council in Ayodhya on Sunday to discuss the issue.
“Yes, a meeting has been called and future course of action will be discussed. I can’t say if WFI President will resign or not. It needs to be discussed,” said a WFI official.
IOA chief Usha deeply concerned: Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha on Thursday said she is “deeply concerned and disturbed” by the sexual harassment allegations by renowned wrestlers against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, saying the national Olympic body will do everything possible to safeguard the interest of the country’s women athletes.
“As a woman and former athlete and presently a sports administrator, I am deeply concerned and disturbed by the latest developments in Indian wrestling, where a section of the athletes has brought serious allegations against a senior official of the sport,” Usha said in a statement issued by the Indian Olympic Association. Usha said she has full faith in the government and has urged all the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to cooperate in this matter.

SourcePTI
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