India’s sports ministry seeks explanation from WFI as wrestlers’ protest continues

NEW DELHI, Jan. 19– India’s federal sports ministry has sought an explanation from the Wrestling Federation of India on allegations of sexual harassment by some of the country’s top wrestlers against governing body president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, India’s state-run broadcaster All India Radio said Thursday. The ministry took cognizance of the protest…

NEW DELHI, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) — India’s federal sports ministry has sought an explanation from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on allegations of sexual harassment by some of the country’s top wrestlers against governing body president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, India’s state-run broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) said Thursday.

The ministry took cognizance of the protest by over two dozen wrestlers in New Delhi that began on Wednesday, seeking the removal of Singh.

“Taking cognizance of the protest by some wrestlers in New Delhi and their serious charges against the WFI president and coaches, the ministry has directed the WFI to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours,” the broadcaster said. “The ministry added that it has taken a very serious view of the matter since it pertains to the well-being of athletes. It also stated that if the WFI fails to furnish the reply within the given period, the ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation.”

The protesting wrestlers led by medalists Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and others Thursday continued their protest for the second straight day.

The protest demonstration intensified after Phogat accused Singh and other coaches of sexually harassing women wrestlers for years.

Phogat has alleged that at least 10 woman wrestlers confessed to her that they were sexually exploited by Singh.

“I know at least 10-20 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,” she told the media.

She further said she had written numerous emails to Singh, but from his side, there was no response.

“I have all the proof with me,” Phogat said.

Singh, however, denied the allegations during a press briefing on Wednesday evening and said he was ready for an investigation.

Singh has been at the helm of WFI since 2011. He was elected president of WFI for the third consecutive time in February 2019, reports said. Singh is a lawmaker of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The top wrestlers said they would not compete in international tournaments unless Singh was removed from the post. Meanwhile, the women’s national wrestling coaching camp, which was due to start on Wednesday in Lucknow, has been canceled. Enditem

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