Renowned Indian wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, among others, alleged the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and coaches, of sexually harassing female wrestlers. The wrestlers gathered in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to protest against the organisation on Wednesday, 18 January.
Speaking with The Quint, Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said "The girls have braved all odds to bring out the allegations today. The worst thing that could happen to a female sportsperson is sexual harassment, but they have been facing it for a long time. This is the truth of WFI."
"We will continue with our protests until the WFI president is removed from his position, and correct measures are taken against the perpetrators. This has been going on for years, but we will put an end to it" Punia further confirmed.
Vinesh Phogat, who has won three Commonwealth Games gold medals for the nation, claimed that the coaches and the president have been harassing the female wrestlers for 'years.'
"Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Sharma. Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women Wrestlers for years. The WFI president is also involved in sexual harassment," she said, as per quotes in Indian Express.
"Many young women Wrestlers have complained to be and cried about being sexually harassed at national camps. At least 20 girls I know who have been sexually harassed at the national camp," she further said.
I Will Hang Myself if Such a Thing Happened: WFI President
The WFI president, who also happens to be a politician with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a Member of Parliament (MP) from Uttar Pradesh's Kaiserganj, rebuked the allegations launched against him.
"Is there any person in front who can say that the Federation harassed any athlete? Did they have no problems with the Federation for the past ten years? Issues emerge when new rules and regulations are brought in," he said, as per quotes in ANI.
"Sexual harassment is a big allegation. How can I take action when my own name has been dragged into this. There has been no incident of sexual harassment. If such a thing has happened, then I will hang myself," Singh further went on to say.
Earlier in the day, vice president of the organisation, Asit Saha informed The Quint about WFI's strict stance regarding mandatory participation in the National Wrestling Championship (NWC) 2022 not going down well with the wrestlers, with the likes of Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh not taking part in it.
‘Our Protest Is Against Sexual Harassment,’ Confirms Punia
Punia, however, firmly debunked the theory by claiming their protests are solitarily against sexual harassment, which he informed has been going on for a while.
"Our protest is against the harassment our girls have been facing. Why would they make false claims?" the Tokyo Olympics star stated.
"This is not a new issue which started because of any regulation change. This is a problem we have ignored for years, but it is now time to demand justice. Jab tak koi faisla nahin nikalta, hum yahin baithenge (we will sit here until corrective measures are taken)," he concluded.