Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Last Updated: January 19, 2023, 19:19 IST
The protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh intensified on Thursday after the country’s top wrestlers announced that they would not leave the national capital until he resigns.
“We have come this far. Now, we will not leave until the government intervenes, and takes action against him,” said wrestler Vinesh Phogat at Jantar Mantar where the sportspersons from across Haryana have gathered to protest against the WFI chief.
In their complaint, the wrestlers have alleged that Singh, also a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, had been sexually harassing female wrestlers. They also alleged that Singh had been running the federation as per his whims and fancies which was impacting their performances.
Bajrang Poonia, who got a bronze medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said the athletes now want WFI to be disbanded.
“We have conveyed our concerns, and we have requested the government to act. We can also submit a police complaint, if it comes down to that. We cannot let the future of so many girls go dark like this,” said Poonia, who later met senior officials at the sports ministry with other wrestlers. “We have won these medals because of our hard work, and we will do everything to protect our respect.”
The sportspersons rued that they had shared their concerns over the WFI chief’s misconduct on previous occasions as well, but to no avail. With slogans of “Ábhi Nahi Toh Kabhi Nahi” and “Inquilab Zindabad” reverberating through the air, the athletes said they would compete in any event till their demands are met.
Sarita Mor, another gold medallist female wrestler from Sonipat who joined the protest on Thursday, lamented the functioning of the federation. “This year is very important for every athlete. The Olympics are just a year away. But we are sitting here, because we have no other option. It anyway takes huge courage for any girl to step out of her house to fulfil her dreams of winning a medal. The federation has only made it more challenging,” said Mor.
From Rio Gold medallist Sakshi Malik to Tokyo silver medallist Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Poonia, Sumit Malik— some of the country’s top wrestlers have lent their support to the protest. On Thursday, Commonwealth Gold medallist Babita Phogat, who is also a BJP member, joined the protest.
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