Bajrang Punia was one of the several wrestlers to voice out their frustration about the Wrestling Federation on India, led by president Brij Bhushan Singh, and its way of functioning at New Delhi on Wednesday.
“The President abuses us,” said Bajrang at the press-conference after a protest at Jantar Mantar, earlier in the day, “Whatever player here has never got support from TATA sports. Private sponsors can only come from federation. Young players come and ask us where to go. Any player who asks is banned.“
“We didn’t approach anyone since we got death threats. After Tokyo, I told the PM about this. Brij Bhushan refused to speak to me after the Olympics. No threats from president directly but from his supporters . . . We want a change in the federation,” he added.
“(Vinod) Tomar is on a govt post, he has property of 20-30 crore. How has he got this property. He has eaten the money of players. TATA sponsorship never went to players. No one got any money that was due to us.”
Several ace wrestlers of the country assembled in the morning protesting against the Federation after WFI made it mandatory for all wrestlers, irrespective of their status, to attend trials.
Sakshi Malik, who , like Bajrang is an Olympic medallist and a 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said that the people in WFI has little knowledge about the sport.
“Players can’t go to a tournament they are banned. Those in federation don’t know wrestling. If you cut weight every month how will you compete,” she said, “I have played nationals after the Olympics. They don’t put our name in the camp. After a lot of fight, our name came in the camp. Does Neeraj Chopra, PV sindhu give fitness test?”
Vinesh Phogat, the first woman wrestler to clinch gold in both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, broke down talking about her experiences.
“I gave trial and competed in CWG. I requested. He says we are scared to compete. He forced me to compete in trials. They see world Championships as national Championships. If this had not happened to me, I would have won gold. I Picked up injury at worlds.
No one has contacted me to find out what injury i have. They say if I don’t compete in nationals, I can’t compete. They called me Khota Sikka. (faulty coin) If anything happens to wrestlers. It’s federation fault,” she said, breaking into tears.
The Haryana-born wrestler also revealed that Brij Bhushan has also harassed female wrestlers in the camps.
“The coaches in the camp exploit the girls and women coaches. WFI president has sexually harassed ( soshan) of players. I still have a home. Other girls don’t have that support,” she said.
“I know so many girls who have told me. The coaches who are appointed break you mentally.”