Vinesh at wrestler’s protest: We haven’t got any response from ministry or oversight committee

CWG gold medallist Vinesh Phogat told that the wrestlers haven’t got any response from the Sports ministry or oversight committee as the Indian wrestlers resumed protest against the Wrestling Federation of India at Jantar Mantar on Sunday.

Published : Apr 23, 2023 17:04 IST , New Delhi - 5 MINS READ

Indian wrestlers resume protest against Wrestling Federation of India.
Indian wrestlers resume protest against Wrestling Federation of India. | Photo Credit:  R V Moorthy

Indian wrestlers resume protest against Wrestling Federation of India. | Photo Credit:  R V Moorthy

Three months after they called it off for the first time, Olympic and world medallists Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat resumed their protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday.

The protesting wrestlers demanded that the government make public the findings of the oversight committee that had been appointed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and financial misappropriation made against Singh after the first protest in January this year. They also said seven women wrestlers had lodged a formal police complaint of sexual harassment against Singh, and demanded that an FIR be registered on the basis of the complaint.

“Two days ago we filed a complaint at CP (Connaught Place) Police Station but a FIR (First Information Report) hasn’t been registered so far. Seven women including one minor made a complaint against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Although the case comes under POCSO (Protection of Children from sexual offences act), no FIR has been registered. We were told to talk with the police on Monday but it’s already been two days,” Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik said during a press conference on Sunday. The Delhi Police hasn’t responded on the matter despite being contacted multiple times.

The wrestlers had called off the protest in January after the government had appointed a six-member oversight committee headed by Olympic boxer Mary Kom to investigate the allegations and subsequently submit a report. The committee was also supposed to run the day-to-day affairs of the federation until the time it submitted the report.

While the committee submitted its report in the first week of April, the report has not been made public. Concerns had been raised by members of the committee itself in the manner in which the report was compiled and submitted.

The wrestlers said they had resumed their protest since no action had been taken against Singh the first time around. “We wouldn’t have had to come here if we had got justice the first time. Nyay abhi tak nahi mili (we haven’t got justice yet)” three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Worlds bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat said.

Sakshi added the delay in making the report public (it was originally supposed to be submitted to the government within a month of the forming of the committee) troubled them.

“We have been waiting for two-and-a-half months. We believed that government will support us. Even now we don’t know what is there in report. Because there has been such a long delay, we are facing accusations from people who think that we have lied in our testimony. We are hearing from people that the only reason we are protesting is because our careers are finished. But that is not the truth. Humne sachai se ji hai aur sachai ki ladai ladi hai (we have lived our lives truthfully and fought the battle of truth),” Sakshi said.

Vinesh added that the delay was compounded by the fact that there had been little to no communication from the government. “For three months, we have been going through mental torture. It is a matter of respect for women players. We haven’t got any response from ministry or oversight committee. Our phones calls are not even being picked,” she said.

Sakshi also questioned the manner in which the report was compiled. “Many of us gave our testimony but no investigation was being carried out. At least come out in public and say what’s in the report,” she said.

Three-time world medallist and Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said the wrestlers decided to protest again since the WFI had resumed conducting tournaments even as no decision was being made on the oversight committee’s report. “The federation has already started organising nationals, their office is running. Then who is listening to the players? We have submitted a complaint to file an FIR. It will be clear soon enough who is lying. They were questioning why we aren’t filing FIR but even after seven girls have lodged a complaint, there has been no action,” he said.

Meanwhile, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal issued a notice to the Delhi police asking why an FIR had not been registered following the complaint by the wrestlers on April 21.

Maliwal, in a letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Pranav Tayal, said DCW has received a complaint from one of the women wrestlers who is among those who have sought an FIR against Singh. “She (the complainant) has informed the commission that instead of an FIR being filed in the matter, some of the complainants and their family members have started getting phone calls enquiring about the identities of the complainants from an IPS officer posted in Department of Sports, MYAS (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports),” Maliwal wrote.

Maliwal asked the DCP to submit by Tuesday a copy of FIR in the matter, reasons for delay, details of accused persons arrested in the matter, details of action taken against the official who leaked the complainant’s information with the officials at the Department of Sports, MYAS, among other details.

Meanwhile, according to the wrestlers, in contrast to their previous protest, which they had called off after being assured by sports minister Anurag Thakur that a committee would look into their allegations, they would not leave Jantar Mantar this time until more concrete action was taken.

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