Indian wrestlers accuse sports body chief of sexual harassment


Olympic medal-winning Indian wrestlers have accused the chief of their sport’s governing body and its coaches of sexually harassing female athletes.

Hundreds of wrestlers from across the country have joined protests in Delhi following the allegations, which have been levelled at Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, president of the Wrestling Federation of India.

Mr Singh, a six-time member of parliament for the ruling BJP party, has denied all allegations against him, branding them a conspiracy.

He said the athletes have no evidence to support their claims, and he is ready for any kind of investigation.

India’s Sports Minister, Anurag Thakur, has met with some of the wrestlers and given the sport’s governing body until Saturday to respond to the allegations.

The protesting wrestlers are demanding the resignation of Mr Singh and a complete restructuring of the federation.

The wrestlers have also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Supreme Court of India to intervene.

Vinesh Phogat, the country’s only double World Championship medallist, said she was not a victim herself, but claimed to know of at least five or six athletes who are, and said she has proof.

“If we do not get a satisfactory response, we will file a criminal complaint,” she said.

She added: “If Olympians are saying something wrong has happened, don’t doubt us. I say with great shame that if girls like us go through sexual harassment then no woman is safe in India. I will say no girl should be born in India.

“Our lives are in danger, we are scared to go home and worry about what could happen to us.”

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In a letter to the president of the Indian Olympic Association, Ms Phogat claimed she was mentally harassed and tortured by Mr Singh for missing out on a medal and said she had contemplated taking her own life as a result.

Male wrestler Bajrang Punia, a bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympics, also joined the protests, telling reporters: “We are now getting death threats for speaking up. This is a protest to save the future of the sport and the future of women wrestlers. This is not about politics. It’s a fight to the finish.”

Sakshi Malik, a bronze medallist at Rio, said: “I am not scared of anything, my younger sisters have put their careers at stake to come here and protest. There is no politics, we want a new beginning for wrestling.”

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