The protesting wrestlers on Wednesday demanded lie-detector Narco Test on Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh under Supreme Court supervision after he claimed innocence to allegations of sexual harassment.
Some of the country’s top wrestlers, including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and Asian Games gold winner Vinesh Phogat, have been protesting at Jantar Mantar here for more than a fortnight, demanding the arrest of Singh for allegedly sexually harassing seven women wrestlers, including a minor.
“Those people speaking in favour of the WFI chief and saying that we are lying, I would say that Brij Bhushan should undergo a Narco Test under Supreme Court... and also the seven women wrestlers (who have alleged sexual harassment),” said 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi said at a press conference here.
“Whosoever is found guilty, hang them,” she added.
A day after Delhi police registered two FIRs against him on April 28, Singh had claimed innocence and said he was ready “to face any kind of investigation.” Sakshi also appealed to the women of the country to come forward and support the wrestlers as they did in 2012 when the Nirbhaya case happened.
“I would request the womenfolk in the country to support us just like they did in the Nirbhaya case. Express solidarity with us because we are also fighting for the cause of women. If we win this fight, we would have sent a strong message, but if we lose we would go back 50 years,” said Sakshi.
The wrestlers also decided to wear black armbands on Thursday as a mark of protest over the alleged inaction of the authorities.
“I appeal to all the individuals and organisations supporting us to come and join us in a black armband protest on Thursday. Tomorrow, we will express our opposition (virodh) by wearing black armbands,” said Vinesh, the 2018 Asian Games gold medallist, on a day which saw a big surge in the number of protesters.
Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said that contrary to public perception, the agitating wrestlers were not against national competitions taking place. He said if the competitions take place under the supervision of the Indian Olympic Association-appointed ad hoc panel, he would welcome them.
“But if the WFI chief is involved in any way, we will oppose it,” said Punia.
“I request the IOA ad hoc committee to organise all the tournaments because we also do not want to halt wrestling activity. We are not calling wrestlers here (protest site) because their training and preparations will suffer. We laud the constitution of the ad hoc committee,” said Punia.
“We have major international events such as the Asian Games and the Olympic qualifiers coming up. The (ad hoc) committee should organise tournaments, (but) not someone who has serious allegations against him,” added Punia.
“Time and again people say we are not allowing tournaments to take place. Let me clarify that we have not stopped any competition. But, my question is how can someone who has so many allegations against him organise events.”
Asked if any official of the Sports Authority of India has so far approached the wrestlers, Punia said, “Look people are coming but we don’t want assurances, because once we have taken their assurance and gone back only to return (after 3 months). This fight will continue till we don’t get justice.”
Punia also alleged that the Information Technology cell was trying to malign the image of the wrestlers. He, however, did not specify which Information Technology cell he was referring to.
“The entire IT cell is trying to malign the image of the wrestlers. Sometimes you are making it look like a caste issue, sometimes a political issue etc...but let me say that you cannot suppress the truth. It will come out. It is taking time but truth will prevail,” added Punia.
Vinesh also requested sponsors Tata Motors to investigate if the money earmarked for wrestling was reaching the athletes.
“Tata Motors has been supporting WFI for the last five years. I also appeal to them to ask WFI if the money is reaching the athletes.”
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