Wrestlers Vs WFI sexual harassment row: From Jantar Mantar to Supreme Courtroom, the story thus far

The four-month-long tussle between Indian girls wrestlers and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has reached the Supreme Courtroom. On April 24, an SC bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud determined to look at the petition filed by seven girls wrestlers towards Mr. Singh alleging sexual harassment.

Wrestlers Vs WFI: What triggered the row?

On January 18, thirty Indian wrestlers together with Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya and others staged a silent sit-in protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar towards WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, alleging that he and a number of other coaches had sexually harassed many ladies.

Chatting with ANI, 28-year-old Commonwealth Video games gold-medallist Vinesh Phogat stated, “Some coaches who are favourites of the federation misbehave with women coaches as well. They sexually harass girls. The WFI president has sexually harassed so many girls”. Whereas Ms. Phogat clarified that she herself didn’t face this subject, she stated she had obtained loss of life threats on the behest of Mr. Singh.

Refuting any wrongdoing, Mr. Singh stated that he “would hang himself if any such incident had happened”. Taking a jibe on the protesting wrestlers, he stated that they had not contested any nationwide match after the Olympics. He added that the primary subject of the protest was the brand new guidelines and rules introduced in by the WFI.

New Delhi: Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others throughout their ongoing protest towards the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
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Wrestlers’ grievances

As no motion was initiated towards Mr. Singh, the wrestlers continued their protest at Jantar Mantar. Furthermore, Olympians Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik alleged that the WFI was ‘harassing wrestlers through its arbitrary rules and regulations’. In addition they accused the WFI of interfering with their private lives and failing to offer enough teaching and medical help. Their calls for included police investigation towards Mr. Singh, his elimination as WFI chief and disbanding of the WFI.

With the protest gaining media consideration and the help of a number of Opposition events, on January 19, the Sports activities Ministry sought a proof from WFI inside seventy-two hours concerning the allegations. The Ministry additionally cancelled the Girls Nationwide Wrestling Teaching camp, scheduled for January 18, because the wrestlers remained adamant of their demand for disbanding the WFI instantly.

The Centre’s response

On January 19, a gathering was held between authorities officers and the protesting wrestlers to iron out the problems, adopted by a gathering with Union Sports activities Minster Anurag Thakur.

After a second assembly betwthe een the wrestlers and Mr. Thakur on January 20, protests have been known as off with the reassurance that the Centre will kind an oversight committee to analyze the allegations towards Mr. Singh. On January 21, the Sports activities Ministry suspended WFI’s assistant secretary Vinod Tomar to make sure correct functioning of WFI, halted WFI’s ongoing actions with fast impact and requested Mr. Singh to step apart until the month-long investigation was accomplished.

On January 23, a six-member committee headed by boxing champion M C Mary Kom was constituted to analyze the fees towards Mr. Singh and handle the day-to-day affairs of the WFI. In addition to Ms. Kom, the committee comprised former wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, ex-badminton participant Trupti Murgunde, ex-TOPS CEO Capt Rajagopalan, SAI government director Radhica Sreeman and ex-wrestler Babita Phogat.

Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Anurag Thakur along with wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Malikkh, Babita Phogat and Ravi Kumar Dahiya address a joint press conference at his residence, in New Delhi on January 21, 2023

Union Minister of Sports activities and Youth Affairs Anurag Thakur together with wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Malikkh, Babita Phogat and Ravi Kumar Dahiya handle a joint press convention at his residence, in New Delhi on January 21, 2023
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Oversight committee probe into Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh 

After a two-week tenure extension, the committee filed its ultimate report on April 5. On February 28, Mr. Singh appeared earlier than the committee for questioning as a part of the inquiry.

On April 16, Mr. Singh — a six-time MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda, Balrampur and Kaiserganj — acknowledged that he wouldn’t contest for the president’s publish within the WFI election on Could 7. Mr. Singh has served three four-year phrases as WFI president and is ineligible to contest for the highest publish as per the Sports activities Code. Nevertheless, he can contest for an additional WFI publish after a four-year cooling-off interval.

Mr. Singh, 66, a wrestler himself, is a strongman from UP’s electorally vital Bahraich belt. Identified for his involvement within the Ram Janmabhoomi motion, Mr. Singh is among the accused within the Babri demolition case. As per his 2019 election affidavit, he additionally faces 4 felony circumstances together with expenses of theft and an try to homicide, and was as soon as charged below the Terrorist and Disruptive Actions (Prevention) Act (TADA).

The Kaiserganj MP enjoys huge help within the Gonda-Balrampur belt and therefore motion towards him by the BJP can be extremely unlikely, say occasion leaders. Touting Mr. Singh because the ‘pride of Uttar Pradesh’, his supporters have turned the probe right into a state subject, claimingthat the fees towards him have been falsely levelled by gamers ‘of a particular region’ — alluding to the wrestlers’ Haryana roots. Mr. Singh has additionally alleged that the protesting wrestlers are ‘puppets in the hands of Haryana Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda’.

Gonda: Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh speaks with the media regarding recent allegations of sexual harassment against him, in Gonda district, Friday, Jan 20, 2023.

Gonda: Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh speaks with the media concerning current allegations of sexual harassment towards him, in Gonda district, Friday, Jan 20, 2023.
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Submitting of probe report and additional protests

On April 5, the committee filed its ultimate report back to the Union Sports activities Ministry after questioning a number of victims, witnesses and Mr. Singh himself. Nevertheless, ex-wrestler Babita Phogat objected to the best way the probe was carried out and alleged that she was not aware about the complete report and that witnesses’ statements weren’t cross-verified.  Chatting with PTI, Ms. Phogat accused Radhica Sreeman of not permitting her to learn the report as her household was concerned within the protest. Ms. Sreeman has refuted these allegations.

Whereas the panel’s report has not been made public, PTI reported that Mr. Singh was given a clear chit with a 5-1 verdict.

On April 23, Indian wrestlers together with Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Ravi Dahiya, and Sakshi Malik resumed protests on the Jantar Mantar, claiming that nothing had been carried out to resolve their points. The wrestlers demanded that the panel’s findings be made public and threatened to method the Supreme Courtroom as Mr. Singh is but to face any motion.

Interacting with the media, a teary-eyed Sakshi Malik stated that seven feminine wrestlers together with a minor have every filed a sexual harassment criticism with the Delhi police towards Mr. Singh. Nevertheless, the Delhi police is but to file an FIR within the case, she stated.

“We are being framed as liars which we cannot bear. We are waiting for two and a half months now but no one is listening,” she added.

The wrestlers have additionally accused Mr. Singh of intimidation of their police criticism. Furthermore, Vinesh Phogat hit out at sister Babita Phogat — an oversight panel member — saying she was extra nervous about her political profession than the reason for the wrestlers.

The Delhi police sought a report from the oversight committee and acknowledged that an FIR can be filed ‘after concrete evidence comes to light’.

Backing the wrestlers, Congress’s Bhupinder Hooda and Udit Raj, CPM’s Brinda Karat, Hannan Mollah, and A. R. Sindhu, and Aam Aadmi Social gathering’s Reena Gupta met with protesters at Jantar Mantar on April 24, whereas the CPI-linked Nationwide Federation of Indian Girls protested outdoors Delhi police headquarters, demanding motion. A number of Haryana leaders like Bhupinder Hooda, Deepender Hooda and heads of many khap-panchayats too have thrown their weight behind the wrestlers.

New Delhi: Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat (centre), Sangita Phogat (right) and Sakshi Malik during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Wednesday, April 26, 2023

New Delhi: Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat (centre), Sangita Phogat (proper) and Sakshi Malik throughout their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Wednesday, April 26, 2023
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The Supreme Courtroom steps in

On April 25, the Supreme Courtroom termed the allegations towards Mr. Singh as ‘serious’ and listed the petition on non-registration of FIR towards the WFI chief on April 28. On the request of the petitioners, their particulars have been redacted from the courtroom’s information. As per the petition, the incidents of sexual abuse allegedly occurred between 2012 and 2022 throughout home and worldwide wrestling competitions, generally at Mr. Singh’s official MP bungalow in New Delhi. One of many complainants alleged that she was harassed when she was sixteen, searching for motion towards Mr. Singh below the POCSO Act.

“There are serious allegations of sexual harassment in the petition, which is instituted by professional international wrestlers who have represented India,” acknowledged the SC bench, itemizing the matter for April 28.

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