Eight days after five top Indian wrestlers had written to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and sought the appointment of a committee to investigate into complaints of sexual harassment made against the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, none of them have appeared in front of a committee that was appointed by the IOA for the same.
As a reason, the wrestlers have cited the formation of a parallel committee appointed by the Sports Ministry which features some of the same members as the IOA. The wrestlers pointed out the fact that one of the members of the IOA committee mentioning the possibility of the allegations by the wrestlers being fake. They have also suggested that the committee appointed by the sports ministry could itself be reconstituted
The IOA committee was formed on January 21st after Olympic medallists Ravi Dahiya, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik as well as world medallists Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia jointly signed a letter addressed to the IOA which listed out complaints of sexual harassment, financial misappropriation and mental torture made against the WFI and WFI president.
The IOA committee was chaired by Mary Kom and also featured Alaknanda Ashok, Sahdev Yadav, Dola Bannerjee, Yogeshward Dutt, and lawyers Shlok Chandra and Talish Ray. On the 23rd of January, the committee had called the wrestlers to appear before them at 11am on Saturday. However on the same day, the Sports Ministry had also announced the formation of an oversight committee featuring, Mary Kom, Trupti Murgunde, Yogeshwar Dutt, former CEO of Target Olympic Podium scheme Capt Rajagopalan and former SAI Executive Director (Teams) Radhika Sreeman.
However a day before, in a letter that has been seen by Sportstar, the wrestlers had informed the committee chairperson Mary Kom of their inability to appear in front of the committee.
“Some members of the said Oversight Committee are also office bearers of the IOA. Some members of your committee are also members of the Oversight Committee formed by the Ministry. This has led to a precarious situation of two parallel committees with same members and overlapping jurisdictions. Enquiry by two committees i.e., Ministry and IOA, over the same issue would be detrimental to the cause of justice,” the letter read.
The wrestlers had further added that a member of the IOA committee had suggested the allegations might be fake. “Furthermore, it would not be out of place to mention that a certain member of your committee has expressed his opinion, as widely reported in the media, on the probability of the allegations being false and the motive thereto,” the letter added.
This referred to public statements by Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt. “..if the allegations are false, it should be probed why were they levelled and what was the motive behind this,” Dutt had told reporters.
The wrestlers also added that there was the possibility of a reconstitution of the committee appointed by the Sports Ministry. Indeed a day after the Sports Ministry’s committee was named, the wrestlers had posted on social media that they had not been taken into confidence and had subsequently met the sports minister.
“Concurrently, I along with other athletes have raised certain objections before the Ministry with regards to the constitution of the Oversight Committee. It has been requested that the Oversight Committee may be reconstituted to conduct an impartial, fair, and independent enquiry. The Ministry has sought time to consider our objections and accordingly re - constitute the said committee,” the letter to the IOA adds.
It was also mentioned in the letter that the wrestlers requested the IOA committee to be kept in abeyance until the final decision made by the Sports ministry. “In view of the above facts and the pendency of the decision by the Government of India on the reconstitution of the Oversight Committee, you are requested to keep the functioning of the present committee in abeyance. Furthermore, it would be appreciated if all communications are kept confidential as the matter under enquiry is sensitive and unwarranted disclosure may be prejudicial to the victims.”