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Wresters Call Off Protest as WFI Chief to Step Aside, Pending New Investigation

The new 'oversight committee' will give their verdict within a month.

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Wrestling
4 min read
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Late night developments in the Indian wrestlers vs Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) protest with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur handing over the investigation to a new 'Oversight Committee' that will look into the matter and share their findings within a month.

Following their second meeting with Thakur in as many days, the Indian wrestlers said they were calling off their Jantar Mantar protest, pending the findings of the committee. According to Thakur, WFI Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been asked to step aside from his post following the allegations of sexual harassment, mental harassment and misappropriation of funds, till the committee submits its findings.

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The new 'oversight committee' will give their verdict within a month.

"The demands put in by the wrestlers will be taken care of. We will constitute an oversight committee and will announce the name of members tomorrow," said Thakur following their five hour long meeting on Friday night.

"The committee will investigate all the serious allegations, including sexual harassment and financial irregularities. It will be investigated properly and the committee will take further decisions. The committee will also look into the daily affairs of the federation and the WFI President will step aside till the probe goes on. He will also co-operate in the investigation," the Sports Minister added.

The new 'oversight committee' will give their verdict within a month.

New Delhi: Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur with wrestler Bajrang Punia ahead of the press conference at his residence, in New Delhi, early Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 2023.

(Photo: PTI)

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia were part of the wrestling representatives who attended the meeting with Thakur and sat alongside him in the press conference.

"Sports Minister has heard our complaints and assured us that the committee will give us a verdict in one month. We have full faith that there will be an impartial investigation. He has also assured us that our safety is his responsibility because we have received threats from the past as well, from the WFI chief's associates," said Bajrang Punia.

"We are calling off the protest at Jantar Mantar because the Government has assured us that justice will be served," he added.

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Wrestlers Listed Out Demands in Complaint to IOA

The new 'oversight committee' will give their verdict within a month.

Wrestlers listed out four demands to the IOA.

(Photo: The Quint)

On Friday morning, the Indian wrestlers wrote an official letter of complaint to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), in which they made allegations of sexual harassment, financial misappropriation and mental harassment and torture against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and also members of the WFI.

In the letter signed by Olympians Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, the wrestlers demanded the implementation of the following steps:

  • Appointment of a committee to investigate sexual harassment complaints.

  • Resignation of WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

  • Dissolution of WFI.

  • Appointment of a new committee to run WFI, in consultation with wrestlers.

Vinesh Phogat, in fact said she ‘almost contemplated suicide’ following her treatment by the WFI chief after her quarter-final exit in the Tokyo Olympics

“Vinesh Phogat was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI President after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo. She almost contemplated suicide,” the letter mentioned.

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The new 'oversight committee' will give their verdict within a month.

IOA Constituted a Committee, As Well

Three days after the wrestlers started their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Indian Olympic Association, headed by PT Usha, finally constituted a committee to look into the complaints.

The seven-member committee includes boxer M.C. Mary Kom, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, archer Dola Banerjee, Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) president Sahdev Yadav, Alaknanda Ashok, and two advocates.

The decision was taken during IOA's emergency executive council meeting which was attended by the likes of Abhinav Bindra, Yogeshwar along with IOA president P.T. Usha and joint secretary Kalyan Chaubey. Former Winter Olympian Shiva Keshvan was a special invitee at the meeting.

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Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh Called Press Conference, Then Cancelled It

WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh called for a press conference at 4pm on Friday evening, saying he would 'expose the political conspiracy' behind the complaints, but eventually cancelled the interaction, around 6pm.

Earlier in the day, while speaking to the media, Sharan called the wrestlers' protest "dharna of Shaheen Bagh" and replied "why" when asked if he would be stepping down.

Instead, his son took the stage in front of the waiting media, in his constituency of Gonda, and declared that Bhushan will only speak after the AGM of the WFI on 22 January.

'We have sent our reply to the Sports Ministry, within the 72-hour deadline we were given. Till we hold our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 22 Jan, we will not be giving a statement to the media. We want to speak to all officials from the state associations and then make a comment," said Brij Bhushan's son Prateek.

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