Wrestlers’ Protest: Govt Gives WFI 72 Hours To Respond To Allegations

New Delhi: For the second day, nearly 200 Indian wrestlers sat in protest in Delhi on Thursday, demanding action against the federation chief and several coaches who have been accused of sexually harassing multiple athletes.

The sports ministry on Wednesday asked the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to respond to the allegations within 72 hours after triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat, one of India’s most decorated women wrestlers, went public with the charges.

WFI President Brij Bhushan Charan Singh, who is also a BJP MP, has refuted the charges. “All the sexual harassment allegations are false, and I will commit suicide if they are found to be true. I tried to get in touch with the wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, but was unable to do so,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency ANI.

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia also joined the protest and accused Singh of running the federation in a high-handed manner. “The job of the federation is to support the players, and take care of their sporting needs. If there is a problem, it has to be solved,” he tweeted.

Phogat made the allegations against Singh and trainers at a public protest in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, backed by several other top wrestlers. “Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president. I know at least 10-20 girls in the national camp who have come and told me their stories,” she said.

Phogat said many wrestlers were intimidated from coming forward because of their humble origins. “They are scared because of their family background. They can’t fight them because they are powerful. Wrestling is our only livelihood, and they are not letting us do it. Our only option is to die. So might as well do good before dying,” she was quoted as saying.

Fellow wrestler and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, who was also part of the protest, endorsed the allegations. “Athletes work hard to win medals for the country, but the federation has done nothing but let us down,” she tweeted.

Vinesh Phogat’s cousin Babita Phogat, also a wrestler and a member of the BJP, tweeted, “I stand with all my fellow players in this matter of wrestling. I assure all of you that I will work to raise this issue with the government at every level, and the future will be decided the way players feel right.”


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