Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Nearly six months after India’s renowned wrestlers levied allegations of sexual harassment against the sidelined Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a chargesheet was filed by the Delhi Police, at the Rouse Avenue Court on 15 June.
Charges of sexual harassment (section 354, 354A) and stalking (section 354D) have been filed against Singh, but barring him, the 1500-page chargesheet also mentions Vinod Tomar, who has additionally been charged with abetment (section 109) and criminal intimidation (section 506).
Who Is Vinod Tomar?
A famous-turned-infamous name in the Indian wrestling circuit, Vinod Tomar is the suspended assistant secretary of the WFI – a position he has been holding onto for the past couple of decades. Tomar was appointed as the assistant secretary way back in October 2002.
Speaking to The Quint, vice president of the WFI’s current executive committee, Asit Saha explained the role and electoral procedure for the position that Tomar held.
Almost all of WFI’s executive committee members are elected by voting – unless there is only one nomination for a position – but the assistant secretary is appointed by the ministry (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports), with the assistant secretary’s salary also being taken care of by the government. Vinod Tomar’s role in the organisation was manifolds, but two of the most important aspects included keeping an account of the finances – regarding the money coming in from the government, and how it is being utilised; and also maintaining liaison with the international apex federation, that is, United World Wrestling (UWW).Asit Saha, Vice President of WFI
What Were the Allegations Against Vinod Tomar?
Back in January, when the wrestlers first accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment, allegations of financial irregularities were levied against Tomar. Speaking to the media, Commonwealth Games medallist Vinesh Phogat hinted at Tomar misusing the money government has been allocated for wrestling, and instead, utilising it to build ‘property worth crores of rupees.’
“There has been financial misappropriation on the part of the WFI. Contract payments were agreed with some of the senior wrestlers in the last few years through sponsorship received from TATA Motors. These payments were only partly made by WFI,” the wrestlers wrote in their statement to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, PT Usha, with Phogat further hinting at Tomar misusing the contract payments for personal benefits.
What Did Vinod Tomar Say About the Allegations?
Tomar, before he was suspended from his position, denied all allegations against both himself and Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, calling the wrestlers’ sexual harassment claim ‘baseless.’
Speaking to ANI back in January, he stated “The allegations are baseless. There is nothing like that. It has been 3-4 days (since the commencement of protests), and they (protesting wrestlers) still haven't produced any evidence.”
The Quint also spoke with Tomar in January, wherein he contradicted the wrestlers’ statement, claiming the federation was never aware of sexual harassment cases.
“The wrestlers could have lodged complaints directly to the federation. To date, there hasn't been any official complaint received by us regarding sexual harassment. Alternatively, wrestlers can also report such instances to SAI, but I have spoken with SAI and confirmed they haven't received such complaints either,” he mentioned.
On being asked if WFI has an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), he mentioned “The WFI constitution mentions the provision of forming a committee to deal with sexual harassment cases. But because we haven’t had such cases before, we currently don't have such a body in action.”
Why Was Vinod Tomar Suspended?
Only three days after the wrestlers’ allegations, and two days after he denied having any information about sexual harassment cases during the conversation with The Quint, Vinod Tomar was suspended from his assistant secretary position by the MYAS.
Explaining the decision, the ministry wrote in their letter “The Ministry has taken note of the reports about the functioning of the WFI, including the role of Shri Vinod Tomar and, has the reasons to believe that his continued presence will be detrimental to the development of this high-priority discipline.”
The Feud With Vinesh Phogat After Tokyo Olympics
Before the 2023 protests, Vinod Tomar was in the news after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for an alleged feud with Vinesh Phogat. Despite some reports associating the dispute with Phogat’s underwhelming performance in the event, Tomar clarified there was an argument owing to ‘indiscipline.’
Phogat, later, was suspended on three counts of indiscipline – for allegedly not sharing the athletes’ village room with other wrestlers, for not wearing the official kit and for not training with the rest of the contingent.