New Delhi: Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will hold a press conference at 12 noon Friday at the Wrestling Training Centre in Nawabganj in Gonda district, Uttar Pradesh, he informed on Facebook. Wrestlers protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar will also address a presser at 10:30 AM. This comes after top Indian wrestlers refused to back down from their demand for the government to initiate immediate steps to disband the WFI as they met Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.
Celebrated Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat and others have been on a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual exploitation and intimidation.
On Thursday night, the protesting wrestlers led by Vinesh and Bajrang besides Sakshi, Anshu Malik, Ravi Dahiya, Sarita Mor, and others met Anurag Thakur at his residence and demanded speedy action. The two sides engaged in a marathon meeting that ended around 2 am, with the parties failing to find a tangible solution thus far.
WFI Protest — What We Know So Far
- News agency PTI reported sources as saying that the government wants the wrestlers to end their protest but they have remained steadfast in their demand that the WFI should be disbanded first. “The government can resolve other issues later… we are fine with that, but it must disband the WFI first,” a source close to the wrestlers told PTI.
- A team of wrestlers, including Bajrang, Vinesh, Anshu, Sakshi and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan met government officials earlier on Thursday to discuss their issues with Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Sports Authority of India Director General Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal.
- As per PTI, during the hour-long meeting, the athletes were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed. Former wrestler and BJP leader Babita Phogat was also part of the meeting.
The WFI is yet to submit a response to the Sports Ministry, which has sought an explanation over the wrestlers’ allegations. The ministry cannot force Brij Bhushan to resign unless it receives a written reply since the government itself had asked the WFI for an explanation.
- Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Commission for Women said that “complainants can approach the women’s panel with their complaints related to this matter”.
The protest began with a startling revelation wherein a crying Vinesh Phogat on Wednesday alleged that WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator and BJP MP.
The 28-year-old clarified that she herself never faced such exploitation but said, “I know at least 10-20 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”.
“I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible,” she claimed.
(With Agency Inputs)