New Delhi: Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Wednesday (January 18, 2023) rejected the sexual harassment charges against him and said that “he is ready to be hanged” if they are proven true. The sitting BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh’s reaction came after Vinesh Phogat alleged that the WFI President has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years. Vinesh also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow have also exploited women wrestlers, adding there are a few women at the camp who approached the wrestlers at the behest of the WFI President.
“There is no truth in any of the allegations. Why should I quit? Even if one woman wrestler comes and proves the sexual harassment charge, I am ready to be hanged. There is an industrialist behind it (conspiracy),” Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said.
“There can be an investigation by the CBI or police. There is no dictatorship. These same wrestlers had met me a week back and did not say anything,” he added.
He also responded to the allegation of death threats given to Vinesh on his behalf and said, “Why Vinesh did not talk to me or approached the police at that time? Why did she not meet the PM or the Sports Minister? Why is she saying this now.”
The WFI president indicated that the new policy and the rules they have introduced are perhaps causing a bit of discomfort to the wrestlers and that’s why the protest.
Delhi | Did they have no problems with the Federation for the past ten years? Issues emerge when new rules and regulations are brought in: Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, President, Wrestling Federation of India pic.twitter.com/3qjyIwpIJe
— ANI (@ANI) January 18, 2023
Brij Bhushan said that the wrestlers are being asked to compete in the National Championships and appear in trials for fair selection, and there is nothing wrong in it.
“Different states host Nationals and all want the country’s best athletes to compete. None of these wrestlers has competed in the Nationals. We have made it clear that only those athletes who compete and win at the National Championship will be selected for the National camp.
“The state of Haryana has been the pride of the country but we want to take wrestling to other states also. So we stopped the arrangements of states sending multiple teams at the Nationals,” he said.
“States like Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland, and Mizoram are weak and we need to promote the game there. So we introduced National Open Championships apart from the regular Nationals and there also Haryana claimed 61 per cent of the medals,” he said.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, 66, was elected unopposed President of WFI for a third consecutive term in February 2019.
WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh sexually exploited 10-20 women wrestlers: Vinesh Phogat
Earlier on Wednesday, Vinesh Phogat and various other star wrestlers staged a four-hour ‘dharna’ at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at the famous protest site.
Vinesh Phogat alleged that WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been sexually exploiting women wrestlers for many years.
She said that she herself never faced such exploitation but claimed that “one victim” was present at the ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar.
Vinesh also claimed that she had received death threats at the behest of the WFI President from officials close to him because she dared to draw Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attention to several issues plaguing Indian wrestling when she met him after the Tokyo Games.
“I know at least 10-20 women wrestlers who have told me about the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of (the) WFI President. They told me their stories. I can’t take their names now but I can definitely reveal the names if we get to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country,” Vinesh told reporters.
“I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible.”
Delhi | I know about 10-20 accounts of sexual harassment faced by women wrestlers. Many coaches and referees have been involved. We will sit on protest until those guilty are not punished. No athlete will participate in any event: Wrestler Vinesh Phogat pic.twitter.com/uHpFs7fFN5
— ANI (@ANI) January 18, 2023
Vinesh along with Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia had even met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to flag their issues about three months back.
“We had met the Home Minister and he had assured us that, ‘you will get justice’,” wrestler Punia told news agency PTI, adding that the ‘sit-in’ was their another attempt to highlight the prevailing issues in Indian wrestling.
‘Reply within next 72 hours’: Sports ministry tells WFI over allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
Meanwhile, taking note of the allegations, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to “furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made”.
The ministry said, “if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011.”
In view of the developments, the ministry has also cancelled the National camp, which was due to start SAI centre in Lucknow from Wednesday.