Why are wrestlers, including Olympic medalists, protesting at Jantar Mantar?
Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, world championship medallists Vinesh Phogat, Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Satyawart Malik and Jitender Kinha were among the 30 wrestlers assembled at the iconic Delhi location.
Top wrestlers from the country, including Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia and 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Vinesh Phogat, staged a four-hour-long dharna at Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, in an unprecedented move against the alleged “dictatorship” of national federation president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The group of protesting wrestlers said that they will not accept the way Singh, who is also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh's Kaiserganj, was running the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The wrestlers clarified that the protest was not against the sports authority or the government, but solely against Singh's presidency of the WFI.
Read more | Vinesh Phogat accuses Wrestling Federation president of sexual harassment
Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, world championship medallists Vinesh Phogat, Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among the 30 wrestlers assembled at the iconic Delhi location.
“Our fight is not against the government or Sports Authority of India (SAI). This is against WFI. We will share details later in the day. Yeh ab aar paar ki ladai hai (This is a fight to the finish line),” Bajrang Punia said, as quoted by news agency PTI.
“The player wants self-respect and prepares for the Olympics and big games with full vigor, but if the federation does not support them, the morale breaks down. But now we will not bow down. Will fight for our rights,” Vinesh Phogat had tweeted earlier in the day.
What are the wrestlers demanding?
The primary and most important demand of the protesting wrestlers is that WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh should be removed from the top post. Singh has held the position since 2011 and was elected as the president for the third consecutive time in February 2019.
They have also demanded new coaches and physios for future training and asked for the training centre to be moved to Delhi. The wrestlers are currently in Lucknow.
The wrestlers have also demanded financial support. They have claimed that the funds often fail to reach them as WFI officials use it for personal benefits.
A case of sexual harassment
In a startling revelation, Olympic champion Vinesh Phogat has accused the WFI chief of sexual harassment.
"I know at least 10-12 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," Vinesh said addressing the media after the protest.
The BJP MP has denied the allegations, saying he will “hang himself” if it is proven to be true. “There has been no incident of sexual harassment. If such a thing has happened, then I will hang myself… I am ready for an investigation,” Singh said.
Phogat said that they will present all evidence when the high court will direct us. “We are also ready to submit all evidence to the PM.”