WFI President to Step Aside Until Probe is Done, Wrestlers Call Off Protest
The IOA has formed a seven-member committee to probe the allegations against WFI chief, Brij Bhushan Singh.
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Three days after Indian wrestlers levelled accusations of sexual and mental harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the athletes called off their protests as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) formed a seven-member committee on Friday, 20 January, to probe allegations.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in the early hours of Saturday, Sports and Youth Minister, Anurag Thakur indicated that the WFI president would step aside until another oversight committee's probe is complete.
Further, he iterated that committee, whose members are due to be announced on Saturday, will be given four weeks to submit a report on the issue.
Wrestlers Send Official Letter to IOA
After a four-hour-long meeting Thakur on Thursday night, the top wrestlers in the likes of Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik issued an official correspondence to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, PT Usha, wherein they listed the four following demands:
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.
In that same letter, it was further mentioned that Commonwealth Games medallist, Vinesh Phogat ‘almost contemplated suicide’ after being mentally tortured by Singh following an unsuccessful attempt to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The wrestlers, in their statement, had further corroborated their intention of not withdrawing from the protests until their demands are fulfilled.
“It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against the WFI President. We fear for our lives. If he is not sacked, then the careers of all the young wrestlers who have joined this dharna will be over,” the letter concluded.
IOA Forms Probe Committee
Having received the letter, IOA acted promptly to form a seven-member committee, entrusted with the responsibility of probing the allegations. The committee comprises Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Alaknanda Ashok, Yogheswar Dutt, Sahdev Yadav and two advocates.
Yadav, who is also the president of the Indian Weightlifting Federation, told ANI “We will sit and listen to everyone and do an unbiased investigation after looking at the charges and try to give a fair justice.”
WFI President’s Press Conference Cancelled at the Last Moment
Meanwhile, Singh called for a press conference in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda, via a social media post where he threatened to ‘reveal all secrets’ and unmask ‘those responsible for the conspiracy.’
Prior to the press conference, he clarified his stance on not resigning from his position voluntarily, by saying “there is no question of resigning. I have not spoken with the Prime Minister's Office and Home Minister.”
“The protesting players have become a toy in the hands of Congress and Deepinder Hooda. This type of conspiracy was done against me by Congress almost three decades ago. Once again the conspiracy has been repeated,” he further informed a TV channel.
The conference, however, did not go ahead as planned, with Singh’s son and vice president of WFI, Karan Bhushan Singh stating that the federation chief will address the media only after the ‘extraordinary general meeting,’ which will take place in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, 22 January.
Speaking to The Quint earlier today, WFI’s joint secretary, Sanjay Kumar Singh, and assistant secretary, Vinod Tomar informed that the meeting will go ahead as per schedule on Sunday, besides that, the federation also submitted their official response on the matter to the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
We Have Proof of Harassment, WFI Chief Was Informed: Vinesh Phogat
At Jantar Mantar, Phogat claimed that she has been in contact with female wrestlers, who have faced harassment. “I got a call from a female wrestler, she is not from Haryana. I have a 30-minute audio recording, where she explained how she was harassed," she said.
“The allegation is against the vice president of WFI. Multiple letters were sent to the federation, informing that there has been physical harassment, but no steps were taken. The WFI president has claimed that no complaints were lodged, but we have proof that this complaint went to him," the 28-year-old further added.
Phogat & Co. then departed for Thakur’s residence, where the wrestlers were scheduled to be involved in another round of discussion with the minister.
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