Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha on May 3 met with wrestlers who have been sitting on a protest demanding the removal of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment.
The former athlete arrived at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, where top grapplers have been staging a protest for the last 11 days. She was seen conversing with wrestlers Sakshee Malikkh, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia at the site.
Previously, PT Usha had on April 27 said that the wrestlers should have approached the IOA instead of going out in the streets against the WFI and its president, whom the wrestlers accused of sexual harassment and mismanagement of athletes.
“Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is having a committee for sexual harassment, instead of going to the streets they (protesting wrestlers) could have come to us earlier but they did not come to IOA. It is not good for sports not only for wrestlers, they should also have some discipline,” the IOA president had told media persons earlier.
Wrestlers had expressed their disappointment at her remarks.
“Being a woman athlete, she (PT Usha) is not listening to other women athletes. We have followed her since childhood and got inspired by her. Where is indiscipline here, we are sitting here peacefully,” Sakshee Malikkh told mediapersons.
Vinesh Phogat, a CWG and World Championships medalist also termed PT Usha’s comments as “insensitive”.
“We live as per the constitution and are independent citizens. We can go anywhere. If we are sitting out in the streets, there must be some reason, a reason that nobody listened to us, be it IOA or Sports Ministry. Her saying this is insensitive. I even called her, but she did not pick up my phone,” said Vinesh Phogat.
Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia said, “You feel sad when she says these things because she is the IOA Chief and a woman herself, she cried for her academy in front of the media. She wants us to approach IOA, but we went there three months back, but no justice was given.”
Three months ago, prominent wrestlers came forward to lead a protest against WFI Chief, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced the formation of an ‘oversight committee’ to probe allegations levelled against the WFI and its chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and other coaches.
The committee was tasked with submitting a report on the issue to the ministry. The wrestlers launched a fresh protest in April.
On April 30, Delhi Police registered two FIRs against WFI president Singh over allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation of female wrestlers by him. Top Indian grapplers such as Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and many other wrestlers are involved in the protest against the WFI chief.
(with inputs from ANI)