Sports ministry gives 72 hours to wrestling body to explain allegations of sexual harassment
After prominent Indian wrestlers sat on a protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and levelled allegations of sexual harassment and corruption, the Union Sports Ministry has decided to get involved.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Wednesday in an official statement sought an explanation from the WFI on all charges in the next 72 hours.
“Taking cognisance of the protest staged by wrestlers, including Olympic and CWG medalists, in Delhi today and a press conference in which wrestlers have levelled serious charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the President and coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, 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," read the statement released.
If the federation fails to provide clarification within the deadline, the ministry will take suitable action against it as per the National Sports Development Code, 2011.
As the wrestlers continue their protest, SAI has cancelled the Women National Wrestling Coaching Camp that was scheduled to start on January 18 in Lucknow with 41 wrestlers and 13 coaches.
Notably, Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and various others sat on a 'Dharna' (protest) on Wednesday at Jantar Mantar in the capital city of New Delhi.
During the press conference, Phogat and Malik accused the federation President Brij Bhushan Sharan Sharma of sexual harassment while Bajrang Punia alleged severe mismanagement in the players' training.
“Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Sharma," said Phogat.
"Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. The WFI president is also involved in sexual harassment."
After being put in the spot, WFI President Sharma came out with a defensive approach and said if the allegations were proven true, he could 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."