WFI chief compares wrestlers’ protest with Shaheen Bagh stir, refuses to quit

In his previous responses to the allegations, Mr. Singh had denied any incident of sexual harassment

January 20, 2023 10:39 am | Updated 04:44 pm IST

BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. File.

BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

Under-fire Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Friday termed the protest by the country’s top grapplers “dharna of Shaheen Bagh” and reiterated that he won’t quit from the post.

The agitating wrestlers on Friday reached out to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), demanding formation of an enquiry committee to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, a day after threatening to lodge multiple FIRs against the WFI chief.

However, Singh has stuck to his stand to not relinquish the post.

“The protest by wrestlers against me is the dharna of Shaheen Bagh,” Singh, who is also a sixth-time Lok Sabha MP from UP’s Kaisarganj constituency, told reporters in his native place here.

Singh also termed the protest in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar an attack on BJP and orchestrated by the Congress party.

Earlier speaking to a TV channel, he had said, “The protesting players have become a toy in the hands of Congress and Deepinder Hooda. This type of conspiracy was done against me by the Congress almost three decades ago. Once again the conspiracy has been repeated.

The accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has said that the allegations being levied against him are part of a political conspiracy. In a Facebook post today, the Kaiserganj member of Parliament said that he will address a press conference in the evening on the same.

In his previous responses to the allegations, Mr. Singh had denied any incident of sexual harassment. “If such a thing has happened, then I will hang myself,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

“Sexual harassment is a big allegation. How can I take action when my own name has been dragged into this? I am ready for an investigation,” he had said, adding that he won’t quit.

Top Indian wrestlers have accused Mr. Singh of sexual exploitation of young athletes at the women’s national camp, Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said that several more wrestlers were willing to step forward.

“Yesterday there were two girls. Now we have five to six girls who are willing to step forward with proof,” Mr. Punia told the media at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar where he and several international and Olympic medallists had gathered in protest since Tuesday. The protesting wrestlers are demanding that the government immediately disband the Wrestling Federation of India.

A late night meeting with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Thursday remained inconclusive as they refused to back down from their demand.

The marathon meeting began around 10 pm on Thursday and the wrestlers left Mr. Thakur's house at 1:45 am. Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, Sakshi Malik and world championship medallist Vinesh Phogat were part of the meeting.

The wrestlers will meet the Sports minister again on Friday, according to government officials.

The Ministry cannot force Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh to resign unless it receives a written reply from the WFI since the government itself has asked the wrestling body for an explanation.

The WFI is yet to respond to the Sports Ministry, which on Wednesday gave the wrestling body 72 hours to respond to allegations of sexual harassment of several woman athletes and intimidation by its president.

(With inputs from PTI)

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