Recently elected president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), PT Usha has called the protesting wrestlers 'indisciplined,' claiming that athletes protesting on the streets is tarnishing India's image.
The nation's top grapplers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik are now sitting on a dharna in New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, demanding the arrest of sidelined Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, against whom seven complaints of sexual harassment have been lodged.
The protesting wrestlers had also previously requested help from PT Usha, the former track and field athlete who is now serving as the first female president of the IOA.
Speaking to the media, however, Usha called the protests an act of 'indiscipline.' "Wrestlers staging protest on streets amounts to indiscipline. These protests on the streets are tarnishing the image of India," she said.
Moreover, the four-time Asian Games gold medallist also claimed that the protesting wrestlers should have reported the matter to IOA's sexual harassment committee, instead of taking to the streets.
"Our feeling is that, for the sexual harassment complaints, the IOA has a committee. Instead of going to the street and doing all those things (protests), they could have come to us earlier itself, but they didn't" she added.
IOA Forms Ad Hoc Committee
Usha, alongside the joint secretary of IOA, Kalyan Chaubey, stated that a two-member ad hoc committee has been formed to oversee the day-to-day operations of WFI and conduct fresh elections for a new executive committee, as per the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports' (MYAS) directive.
"The government asked to form an ad hoc committee. We have already named two members – one of Bhupender Singh Bajwa, the other is Sima Shirur," the IOA chief commented.
On being asked about the current status of the IOA-formed committee's probe into the sexual harassment allegations against Singh, Chaubey said "That investigation is going on. We have been told the committee has got a list of witnesses and they will ask them to come and they will face the committee.
Wrestlers Taken Aback by PT Usha’s ‘Harsh’ Response
With the IOA chief accusing them of tarnishing the nation's image, the protesting wrestlers have been taken aback, having previously expected support from Usha.
When Bajrang Punia, Tokyo Olympics medallist was asked about his reaction to Usha's comments, he claimed "We did not expect such a harsh response from IOA President PT Usha, we expected support from her."