Monday, February 6, 2023

WFI president sexually exploited women wrestlers: Vinesh Phogat

In a startling revelation, a crying Vinesh Phogat on Wednesday alleged that Wresting Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator and BJP MP.
Vinesh, who has been at loggerheads with WFI since the Tokyo Olympic Games, also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow have also exploited women wrestlers, adding there are a few women at the camp who approached the wrestlers at the behest of the WFI President.
Phogat though clarified that she herself never faced such exploitation but claimed that “one victim” was present at the ‘dharna’ they began at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.
So disturbed was Vinesh that she along with Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia had even met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to flag their issues about three months back.
“We had met the Home Minister and he had assured us that, ‘you will get justice’,” star wrestler Punia told PTI, adding that the ‘sit-in’ was their another attempt to highlight the prevailing issues in Indian wrestling.
Vinesh also claimed that she had received death threats at the behest of WFI President from officials close to him because she dared to draw PM Modi’s attention to several issues plaguing Indian wrestling when she met him after the Tokyo Games.
“I know at least 10-20 women wrestlers who have told me about the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of (the) WFI President. They told me their stories. I can’t take their names now but I can definitely reveal the names if we get to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country,” Vinesh said addressing the media after staging a four-hour ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar.
“I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible.”
Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at the famous protest site.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, 66, was elected unopposed President of WFI for a third consecutive term in February 2019.
Sports ministry seeks explanation: Taking note of the allegations, the sports ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to “furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made”.
The ministry said, “if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.”
In view of the developments, the ministry has also cancelled the National camp, which was due to start SAI centre in in Lucknow from Wednesday.
BJP MP rejects charges: The sitting BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh rejected all the charges against him and refused to quit his post.
“There is no truth in any of the allegations. Why should I quit? Even if one woman wrestler comes and proves the sexual harassment charge, I am ready to be hanged. There is an industrialist behind it (conspiracy),” said the 66-year-old WFI President.
“There can be an investigation by the CBI or police. There is no dictatorship. These same wrestlers had met me a week back and did not say anything,” he added.
Responding to the allegation of death threats given to Vinesh on his behalf, Brij Bhushan said, “Why Vinesh did not talk to me or approached the police at that time? Why did she not meet the PM or the Sports Minister? Why is she saying this now.”
WFI boss indicated that the new policy and the rules they have introduced are perhaps causing a bit of discomfort to the wrestlers and that’s why the protest.
He said the wrestlers are being asked to compete in the National Championships and appear in trials for fair selection, and there is nothing wrong in it.
Explaining his position, the WFI President said that they were facing action from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for flouting the rules and he had to take action against Vinesh out of compulsion because he did not want a ban on India.
DCW issues notice to sports ministry, Delhi Police: Delhi Commission for Women has issued notices to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the city police after wrestler Vinesh Phogat accused BJP MP and Wresting Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually exploiting women wrestlers.
DCW chief Swati Maliwal also met the protesting wrestlers at the Jantar Mantar.
DCW said it has taken suo moto cognisance of media reports about allegations of sexual harassment made against the president of Wrestling Federation of India and some wrestling coaches, the panel said. The panel has also asked police to register an FIR in the matter.
It has sought a copy of complaints made by women wrestlers against coaches and WFI president alongwith details of action taken thereon by January 21.
It has also sought details of Internal Complaints Committee formed by the Wrestling Federation of India.

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