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Monday, September 25, 2023

‘I will expose political conspiracy today’: Wrestling Body Chief responds to protest

New Delhi: Under pressure to resign from his position over allegations of sexual exploitation of women wrestlers, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has said he will “expose” the “political conspiracy” on Friday afternoon in a press conference.

Singh, who is also a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh in a post on his Facebook said that he will hold a press conference at the Wrestling Training Centre in Nawabganj in Gonda district of the state.

The press conference is scheduled to be held this evening. Earlier Singh said that the presser would be held at noon before changing the time to after 4 pm today.

The development comes hours after some wrestlers had a late-night meeting with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Thursday. Thakur who arrived at his Delhi residence late last evening from Chandigarh met with the wrestlers and the meeting stretched into the early hours of today. According to sources it ended on an undecisive note.

Grapplers Sakshee Malikkh, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Ravi Dahiya among others were seen leaving Thakur’s residence at around 3 am today. According to sources, Thakur is likely to meet with wrestlers in the national capital again this morning.

The Union Sports Ministry has also given a deadline to the WFI to respond within 72 hours to the allegations made by the wrestlers. The Ministry stated that if the WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, it will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.

The deadline expires on Saturday.

On Thursday several ace wrestlers of the country including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Mallikkh and Bajrang Punia participated in the sit in protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, that begun on Wednesday.

Wrestlers have levelled charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the WFI president and its coaches and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation. They demanded a complete overhaul of the federation.

“We want a complete overhaul of the Wrestling Federation. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) should be dissolved and restructured. There are people in the state wrestling associations too that have linkups with the WFI President. We also want the state associations to be restructured,” Bajrang Punia said yesterday.

The protesting wrestlers have demanded resignation of the WFI chairman and action to be taken against him.

Yesterday, champion wrestler and a Haryana BJP leader Babita Phogat arrived at the protest site at Jantar Mantar assured them that as a fellow wrestler she would work to raise the issue the government at every level.

Vinesh Phogat had previously alleged that coaches who are favourites of the WFI misbehave with women and harass them. She also accused the wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually harassing girls and calling her a ‘khota sikka’ after her defeat at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Wrestling Federation of India chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has denied all allegations against him and said that the protesting wrestlers should have approached the Federation earlier.

Singh also claimed that 97 per cent of wrestlers were with the WFI and those where were taking part in the protests were pressured to do so. He also vehemently denied any incident of sexual harassment.” There has been no incident of sexual harassment. If such a thing has happened, then I will hang myself,” the WFI president said while addressing a press conference in the national capital on Wednesday.

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