The battle between wrestlers and sports officials keeps getting worse. On Thursday, even as the Indian Olympic Association formed a three-member committee to run the wrestling affairs and conduct elections, its officials were slammed for being insensitive and shielding the accused, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The IOA in its executive committee meeting named Wushu Association president Bhupender Singh Bajwa and shooting coach Suma Shirur, along with a retired High Court judge, in the ad-hoc committee. But president P.T. Usha and joint secretary Kalyan Choubey’s comments that the wrestlers were tarnishing the country’s image has riled the protesters.
“The IOA has an athlete’s commission in place and instead of hitting the streets, these wrestlers should’ve come to us. The athletes should be disciplined. If their problems are real, they should’ve come to us earlier. If they were not satisfied, then they could’ve gone anywhere,” Usha said, inviting strong words from Bajrang Punia.
“I feel sad since she is herself a woman and this is a case of sexual harassment. We were quiet for three months but instead of taking any action, we are being called liars. What will athletes do if they don’t get justice? Some time back, Usha had complained that people were destroying her academy and cried for help. If she as an MP and IOA president can go through that, we are ordinary athletes with no political power. Can she not understand what can happen to us,” Bajrang Punia questioned.
Asked about being called indisciplined, Bajrang retorted, “You gave us assurances and we left last time. What happened? The federation held championships in his backyard. Suspended people were conducting medal ceremonies.
“You started saying through sources that nothing was found. I am saying 12-13 women gave statements to the Oversight Committee. Radhika Sreeman (member of the committee) has commented that only one woman spoke of sexual harassment but is that not enough? Is it only about numbers?”
AIFF president Choubey claimed that such actions tarnished the image of the country. “These protests are not good for the image of the country. We are the fifth largest economy in the world and sport is a medium through which you reach all parts of the world...This protest is spoiling the reputation of India. In this day and age of social media, imagine what this does to the country’s image?” Choubey said.
“Does the image of the country grow when athletes are harassed,” retorted Vinesh Phogat. “We know this will impact us forever. I cannot even tell you how insensitive and disrespectful the behaviour of committee members was. I personally called her so many times, she never answered.
“For three months we got nothing. Now, when we are protesting they are releasing selective documents and comments. Why didn’t she meet us or speak to us even once? The only hope we have is from the court,” she declared.
The case is up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday.