Wrestlers Protest: Vinesh, Sakshi accuse WFI prez of harassment, protest at Jantar Mantar
Sports ministry, on Wednesday, sought response from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) after top wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik alleged gross misconduct by the sports body’s coaches and chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
“Taking cognizance of the protest staged by wrestlers, including Olympic and CWG medalists, in Delhi today and a press conference in which wrestlers have levelled serious charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the President and coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made. In its communication to WFI, the Ministry has stated that “since the matter pertains to the well being of athletes, the Ministry has taken a very serious view of the matter.”, the sports ministry said in a press statement.
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.
The ministry has also cancelled an upcoming wrestling camp for women wrestlers.
“Further, the Women National Wrestling Coaching camp, which was due to start in Sports Authority of India’s National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Lucknow from January 18, 2023 with 41 wrestlers and 13 coaches and support staff, has been cancelled,” the statement stated.
“The Executive Director of NCOE Lucknow has been directed to provide all facilities to national campers who have already reported and likely to report, till the campers depart from the centre. Necessary information regarding cancellation of the National Coaching Camp has also been sent to all campers.”
Nearly a dozen Indian wrestlers including Olympian Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik are holding a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, against the alleged arrogance of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
The wrestlers began their protest on Wednesday at around 12 noon when wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik accused the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharma of sexual harassment. The first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at both the Asian and Commonwealth Games, Vinesh Phogat has alleged that the coaches are harassing women wrestlers. She also added, “Some coaches who are favourites of the federation also misbehave with women coaches. They sexually harass girls.”
खिलाड़ी आत्मसम्मान चाहता है और पूरी शिद्दत के साथ ओलंपिक और बड़े खेलो के लिए तैयारी करता है लेकिन अगर फेडरेशन उसका साथ ना दे मनोबल टूट जाता है।लेकिन अब हम नही झुकेंगे।अपने अधिकारों के लिए लड़ेंगे।#BoycottWFIPresident#BoycottWrestlingPresident@PMOIndia @narendramodi @AmitShah
— Vinesh Phogat (@Phogat_Vinesh) January 18, 2023
According to a PTI report, Phogat also said that she has received death threats from WFI officials.
Vinesh Phogat also added that after the Tokyo Olympics defeat, WFI president called her a ‘khota sikka’ (worthless). The wrestler alleged that she was mentally tortured because of which she even thought of ending her life.
Vinesh Phogat’s sentiment was also echoed by medallist Bajrang Punia, who added that the wrestlers are being harassed by WFI via its arbitrary rules and regulations. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist also added that those who are a part of WFI know nothing about the sport.
“Wrestlers don’t want to tolerate the ongoing dictatorship,” Punia said. He urged that the management of the WFI be changed. “We hope the Prime Minister and Home Minister will support us.” Punia told ANI.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia told Indian Express that their protest is against the Federation and the way it has been functioning without keeping the best interests of wrestlers in mind. He further added that this has nothing to do with politics of any sort. We have not invited any politicians here. This is purely a wrestlers’ protest.
Punia also added that the wrestlers have no voice when it comes to decision making and have suffered for a long time in silence.
फेडरेशन का काम खिलाड़ियों का साथ देना, उनकी खेल की जरूरतों का ध्यान रखना होता है। कोई समस्या हो तो उसका निदान करना होता है। लेकिन अगर फेडरेशन ही समस्या खड़ी करे तो क्या किया जाए?
अब लड़ना पड़ेगा, हम पीछे नहीं हटेंगे । #BoycottWFIPresident#BotcottWrestlingPresident
— Bajrang Punia
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