The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on Wednesday, 18 January, has demanded an explanation from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), after Indian wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, among others, accused its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and coaches, of sexually harassing female wrestlers.
The ministry has asked WFI to furnish a reply on allegations within 72 hours.
"Since the matter pertains to the well being of athletes, the Ministry has taken a very serious view of the matter," the ministry stated.
"The Ministry has further stated that if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011," it added.
What did the wrestlers say? Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, along with other Indian wrestlers gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to protest against WFI, accusing the federation's president and coaches of sexually harassing female wrestlers.
Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia told The Quint that "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" he added
Three time gold medal winner at Commonwealth Games, wrestler Vinesh Phogat alleged that the coaches and the president have been sexually 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.
"Whole federation should be removed so that the future of new wrestlers is safe. A new federation should come into existence. Dirt has spread from the lower level. We'll speak to PM & HM & reveal details. Investigation must be done on some matters," wrestler Sakshi Malikkh added, as quoted by news agency ANI.
What did WFI President say? 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, denied all the allegations levelled against him.
"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," he added.
Singh also alleged that the wrestlers have been pressurised to protest.
"97 percent of players are with the WFI. I'm hurt by the sexual harassment allegations. No player can bring those charges against me or chief coach. Pressure was created on some wrestlers to sit on dharna," he said.
He further added that "I've contributed to the Olympians' success. A week ago Bajrang and Sakshi met me, they had no problem earlier. Maybe, they didn't like some of the decisions I took as President but I only took those decisions in the interest of the sport."