New Delhi & Chandigarh: The country’s top wrestlers on Thursday vowed to intensify their protest, saying the government has given them an assurance but not a “satisfactory response”. The wrestlers said they will lodge multiple FIRs against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh if the WFI is not disbanded immediately.
The wrestlers, who have accused the WFI president of sexual exploitation and intimidation, continued their dharna for the second day as more grapplers joined them in what they called was a fight to give “a new life to Indian wrestling”.
Three-time Commonwealth Games medallist and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Babita Phogat came to the protest site with a “message” from the government and assured the grapplers that their demands will be met as athletes spoke about their experience.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya pleaded for more support while young Anshu Malik narrated how the WFI president’s presence in the players’ hotel in Bulgaria during the world junior championship last year made the women wrestlers uncomfortable.
A team of wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Anshu, Sakshi Malik, and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan, was then called for a meeting with the government as they discussed their issues with sports secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Sandip Pradhan, and joint secretary (sports) Kunal.
During the one-hour meeting, the wrestlers were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed. However, the wresters wanted concrete and immediate action and decided to continue their protest unless the WFI president is removed and the national federation is disbanded along with all the state wrestling associations in the country.
Haryana’s principal opposition party, the Congress assailed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) government for its silence in the matter despite several of the players being from the state.
It is a shame that players who are the pride of the country had to protest on the streets, said former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is the leader of Opposition.
Mr Hooda demanded that the WFI be dissolved and the accused brought to book and pointed out that the state government had also kept silent over charges of sexual harassment against the former state sports minister.
AICC general secretary Kumari Selja said that the kind of allegations levelled by the renowned wrestlers against the WFI chief had shaken every sensitive person to the core. The former Union minister said that the silence of the BJP-JJP alliance government of the state in this matter was surprising.
The former minister said that a minister against whom such charges were levelled by a woman coach had neither been arrested nor dismissed from the state government despite a case of molestation being registered by Chandigarh police.