Monday, May 29, 2023

WFI scandal: complainants did not appear before panel, says Anurag Thakur

Union Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur on Thursday rejected the claims of inaction by the government in the affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) made by wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
The Minister said the government got the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to set up an Oversight Committee and is now taking action based on major findings in the report submitted by it, by requesting the Indian Olympic Association to set an Ad-hoc Committee and conduct free and fair elections within 45 days.
He said as per another finding of the report, an internal committee will be constituted after the elections and it will look into all complaints of sexual and mental harassment.
The Minister was responding to claims by the protesting wrestlers, led by Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, and Asian and Commonwealth Games medallist Vinesh Phogat, that the government is shielding the deposed president of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh against allegations of sexual harassment.
Thakur said he had personally met the wrestlers during their first protest and after a 12-hour-long discussion, the government asked Indian Olympic Association to set up an Oversight Committee. “On their demand, we included Babita Phogat in the Oversight Committee.
In all 14 meetings of the Oversight Committee were held but neither the wrestler that complained of sexual harassment nor others whose names were listed as victims by the protesters, turned up before the Committee,” said the Minister at a media interaction in the Union Territory of Ladakh, as per a video posted on the social media.
Thakur said the Ministry has taken cognizance of the major findings in the Oversight Committee’s report and as per that has asked the Indian Olympic Association to set up an ad-hoc committee to conduct impartial elections in 45 days.
The Minister said they have gone by the major findings of the Oversight Committee and accused the wrestlers of indulging in politics.
The Indian Olympic Association on Thursday set up an Ad-hoc Committee comprising Bhupender Singh Bajwa and shooter Suma Shirur to manage the affairs of Wrestling Federation of India.
A third member, a retired High Court judge, will be named before the election process is initiated.

Wrestlers protesting on streets tarnishing India’s image, amounts to indiscipline: IOA President PT Usha

PT Usha

Coming down heavily on the aggrieved wrestlers, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha on Thursday said the grapplers protesting on the streets amounts to indiscipline and is tarnishing the country’s image.
Decorated wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi malik are the three central characters in the renewed protests against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation by the grapplers.
“Wrestlers staging protest on streets amounts to indiscipline. It is tarnishing the image of India,” Usha told reporters after IOA’s Executive Committee meeting.
The IOA also instituted a three-member adhoc panel, including former shooter Suma Shirur, Wushu Association of India chief Bhupendra Singh Bajwa and headed by a yet-to-be-named retired high court judge, to run the affairs of the WFI until a new body is elected. The IOA and the government had managed to placate the wrestlers with assurances to probe their allegations against Sharan and the WFI after the protest first broke out in January.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh indicates he won’t go down without a fight

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

Accused of sexual harassment by India’s top wrestlers, under-fire national federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Thursday indicated that he will fight with all his might to prove his innocence.
In a video message, the BJP MP, without making a mention of the allegations against him, indicated that he would not accept defeat till he has strength for fight.
“Friends, the day I reflect on my life, what I gained or lost, the day I feel I don’t have the strength to fight, the day I feel helpless, I won’t like to live a life like that. Instead of living such a life, I would wish that death embraces me,” he said. Star wrestlers, including World Championships medal winner Vinesh Phogat, Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakashi Malik, have made sexual harassment allegations against Brij Bhushan and have been sitting on an indefinite protest at Jantar Mantar here.
The elite athletes resumed their agitation against the Wrestling Federation of India chief on Sunday, three months after they ended their sit-in protest following the formation of an oversight committee by the government to probe into the serious allegations. The Sports Ministry has not yet made public the findings of a six-member oversight panel that submitted its report on April 5.


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