Late Thursday night, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur met with the wrestlers and assured them that the issue would soon be resolved.
Live: Wrestler Protest Updates
Refusing to wait until Saturday night when the government’s deadline to demand an explanation from members of Singh’s office and WFI expires, the protesters, led by Olympic medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and two-time World Championship medalist Vinesh Phogat, upped the ante on the second day of their peaceful sit-in by demanding not only the resignation of Singh but also the dissolution of the WFI and all its affiliated state units.
The wrestlers’ confrontational approach forced Singh to convene an “extraordinary general meeting” of the WFI on Sunday in Ayodhya to discuss the raging controversy. Speculation is rife over Singh’s resignation, but it will not be easy to sideline the BJP strongman in Uttar Pradesh politically with the next general elections due in early 2024.
Singh has been in the lower house of parliament six times in his career and is a sitting BJP MP from the Gonda seat in Kaiserganj in UP. According to political observers, he wields influence in 17 eastern UP districts and played a vital role in the BJP’s undisputed run in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Babita Phogat supports protesting wrestlers, salutes them for showing courage against WFI
Singh left for Gonda early Thursday morning from his official residence at 21 Ashoka Road here to attend a private function and will stay there until Sunday morning before heading to Ayodhya. With wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar, a heavy deployment of Delhi Police personnel and paramilitary forces were seen outside his bungalow. WFI’s office inside his residence was also temporarily closed for security reasons.
Around 200 wrestlers from neighboring Haryana and UP states – including Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya and Birmingham CWG gold medalist Deepak Punia – joined the protest on Thursday morning. .
WFI Chief Sexual Harassment: DCW sends notice to Sports Ministry and Delhi Police
Later, three-time CWG medallist and BJP leader Babita Phogat – who is also Vinesh’s cousin – arrived at the protest site and assured the grapplers that justice would be served. She took Bajrang, Vinesh, Sakshi, Anshu Malik and Satyawart Kadian to meet a delegation from the Ministry of Sports consisting of Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi. ISC Director General Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal.
After patiently hearing from the wrestlers and their grievances and despite assuring them of action against Singh and the WFI board members, the grapplers refused to call off their protest. They held a press conference after the meeting, where Vinesh spoke about plans to file an FIR against Singh for sexual harassment on Friday.
Wrestlers protest: Center will do everything for the good of the athletes, says Anurag Thakur
“We had one or two victims of harassment with us yesterday. But today we have five to six female wrestlers who have told their stories of sexual harassment. We will not name them for now. If need be, we will be compelled to disclose their identities and it will count as a dark day in the history of the country where goddesses ‘Durga’ and ‘Lakshmi’ are worshipped. At least five to six girls will file multiple FIRs on Friday,” Vinesh said.
“It’s not just about Singh’s resignation. Our fight won’t stop until we send him to prison. We didn’t take the legal road because we had hoped for a resolution. We are Olympic and World medalists, so don’t suspect us. You (the media) have to believe us because we are telling the truth,” she said.
Sakshi said sexual abuse runs deep in the federation and national camps, and the time has come for Singh and his men to be removed from state-run sports bodies. However, one question remained unanswered after two days of protests: why didn’t Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sakshi learn about the sexual harassment allegations made by fellow wrestlers or file complaints? complaints on their behalf while he was on the federation’s committee on sexual harassment? in the current executive council?
Sources within the ministry and the ISC have also confirmed YOU that no complaints of sexual harassment against Singh “officially or unofficially” were ever received by their departments during his more than a decade tenure as head of the WFI.
Wrestlers Make Allegations Against WFI President; Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh remains defiant