After allegations against one of India’s most successful women wrestlers, triple Commonwealth Games gold medalist Vinesh Phogat, became public, the country’s Sports Ministry on Wednesday asked the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to respond to the allegations within 72 hours. Where is it?
BJP MP and WFI President Braj Bhushan Singh has denied the allegations. He said, “All allegations of sexual harassment are false, and if they are found to be true, I will commit suicide. I tried to contact several wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, but could not be reached.”
Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia also joined the protest and accused Braj Bhushan Singh of running the federation in a different way. He tweeted, “The federation’s job is to support the players and take care of their sporting needs. If there is a problem, it has to be solved.”
Phogat made the allegations in support of several other top wrestlers against Braj Bhushan Singh and the coaches at a public protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. “Women wrestlers have been sexually assaulted by coaches and the WFI president in national camps. I know at least 10-20 girls in national camps who have come and told me their stories,” she said.
Phogat said that many wrestlers were afraid to come forward. They are scared because of their family background. They cannot fight with them, because they are powerful. Wrestling is our only livelihood, and they are not letting us do it. Our only option is to die.
Fellow wrestler and Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, who was part of the protest, supported the allegations. “Athletes work hard to win medals for the country, but the federation has done nothing but let us down,” he tweeted.
Vinesh Phogat’s cousin wrestler and BJP member sister Babita Phogat tweeted, “I stand with all my fellow players in this matter of wrestling. I assure you all that I will work to raise this issue with the government at all levels.” And the future will be decided according to the feelings of the players.”
The allegations come months after the coach of the country’s national cycling team was sacked following allegations of sexual harassment.
India’s #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2018 after a Bollywood actress accused a senior actor of sexual harassment.
Soon after, women from other backgrounds came forward with allegations, including a former government minister, but activists say little has changed fundamentally.