‘This is a protest to save the future of the sport and the future of women wrestlers. This is not about politics’: Bajrang Punia

“This is a protest to save the future of the sport and the future of women wrestlers. This is not about politics,” said Bajrang Punia on Thursday, making it clear time and again alongside the other wrestlers present that no politician will be asked or allowed to speak at the protest.

Hundreds of wrestlers including Chhatrasal trainee and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist wrestler Ravi Dahiya joined in the protest against the Wrestling Federation of India at Jantar Mantar. Tokyo Olympic silver medalist and junior World medalist Deepak Punia and Anshu Malik were also present. This, a day after Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik accused BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment.

2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and BJP leader Babita Phogat on Thursday assured the wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar against the Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, that their issues will be resolved. “I have assured them that the government is with them. I will try that their issues are resolved today,” said Phogat while talking to media after meeting the wrestlers.

Father and coach of the Phogat sisters, Mahavir Singh Phogat was also present to join the wrestlers protesting. On Wednesday, Phogat had told The Indian Express, “Wo (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) hamesha ladkiyon ka camp Lucknow mey karwata hai, apne ghar ke qareeb (he always conducts the women’s camp in Lucknow, where he has a house)…..“Aaj saare bachhon ne bahaduri dikhayi hai (I am glad that all these kids have shown the courage to come out against his tyranny).”

Wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajran Punia at a protest against the Wrestling Federation in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

“All of us wrestlers have come together to protest against the injustice of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). We are united in our protest and we will stay united and will not stop protests till we get justice,” Dahiya said.

2022 Commonwealth Games and 2021 World Championships silver medalist Anshu Malik on Thursday conceded, “Women wrestlers are uncomfortable that the Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan stays in a room opposite to them at team hotel. When the girls return after competing they don’t go back to their room.”

Singh, however, denied all the allegations on Wednesday, saying if charges are proven true he can be hanged. “Is anyone saying that the WFI has sexually harassed a wrestler? Only Vinesh has said it. Has anyone come forward and said that they personally have been sexually harassed? Even if one wrestler comes forward and says that she has been sexually harassed, that day I can be hanged,” he said.

Farmer leader Narendra Tau joined the wrestlers’ protests on Thursday and said. “I am here to support the girls, but if the WFI president is not removed then this protest will turn into a revolution. Those in power know what can happen if they don’t listen to India’s daughters.”

Taking note of the allegations against Singh, the sports ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to “furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made.”

The ministry said, “if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.”

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