Women Wrestlers Molested By National Coaches, Alleges Vinesh Phogat; Federation Chief Responds
Vinesh Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, has raised some serious allegations against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI)
Vinesh Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, on Wednesday raised some serious allegations against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh. The veteran athlete, who has represented India at the Olympics too, said that "national coaches molested female wrestlers over the years and were given death threats by WFI officials." She along with other top Indian wrestlers sat a massive protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. The wrestlers called for the removal of the WFI president from the post.
"We will not compete in any international competition until WFI President is removed", Bajrang Punia, Olympic bronze medallist wrestler, declared at the protest.
Singh has been at the helm of the WFI since 2011. He was elected President of WFI for the third consecutive time in February 2019.
"We were threatened that our careers will come to an end if we speak. Federation members used profanities against female wrestlers. We have approached the Prime Minister as well," Vinesh added.
Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.
Vinesh, a world championship medallist and Olympian, also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow have exploited women wrestlers, adding that there are a few women at the camp who approach wrestlers at the behest of the WFI President.
"Some coaches are close to the national federations. Those coaches have exploited young girls. Don't know how many young girls have suffered due to them," Vinesh further stated.
The 28-year-old though clarified that she herself has not faced such exploitation but claimed that she had received death threats at the behest of WFI President from officials close to him because she dared to draw Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attention to several issues plaguing Indian wrestling when she met him after the Tokyo Games.
"I know at least 10-12 women wrestlers who have told me about the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of (the) WFI President. They told me their stories. I can't take their names now but I can definitely reveal the names if we get to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country," Vinesh said addressing the media after staging a four-hour dharna at Jantar Mantar.
Sitting beside Vinesh, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said the federation is being run in an arbitrary manner and they will not compete in any international competition unless the WFI President is removed. "Our fight is not against the government or the Sports Authority of India (SAI). This is against WFI. 'Yeh ab aar paar ki ladai hai' (It's a fight to the finish). We will continue this protest until WFI President is removed," Bajrang Punia told news agency PTI.
WFI president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh has responded to the allegations. "I came here as soon as I got to know the wrestlers are protesting. Is there anyone on record who can say the Federation has molested us?" he said at a press conference. "If you had such issues with the federation, then why did nobody raise them for 10 years? Issues come up whenever rules are formed."
"No truth in wrestlers' allegations against me, I am ready to be hanged even if one sexual harassment case is proved," the WFI chief Brij Bhushan added. "I will not quit as WFI President but I am ready for investigation by CBI or police."
"An industrialist is behind this conspiracy against me. Why Vinesh did not approach police if she received death threats," he further alleged.
With inputs from PTI