Indian wrestling federation rocked by sexual abuse accusations

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Jan 19 (EFE).- The Indian wrestling federeation has been rocked by accusations of sexual abuse against top officials, with protests led by senior wrestlers entering its second day on Thursday.

“Yesterday, we said one or two girls had came forward, today five to six women wrestlers are there with us who have faced these atrocities and we have evidence to prove it,” Bajrang Punia, who won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, told the media.

Some 100 wrestlers gathered at Jantar Mantar, the street in New Delhi where most demonstrations in the capital take place, for the second consecutive day after a group of elite athletes claimed the prevalence of sexual abuse for years within the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

The accusations go right up to WFI president and member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, whom Vinesh Phogat, a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, has directly named.

According to Phogat on Wednesday, cases of sexual abuse are perpetrated even by coaches, who are not sacked despite the federation being aware of it.

The accusations have come from well-known athletes who have made the country proud with their victories in the arena, and have captured the attention of the Indian media.

On Wednesday, the sports ministry has demanded answers from the WFI “within the next 72 hours,” failing which “the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation.”

However, this response from the authorities is being seen as insufficient by the protesting wrestlers, who on Thursday met with government representatives but were not convinced by the outcome.

“The government did not promise any action, they have only given assurance and we’re not happy with the response,” said Sakshi Malik, bronze medal winner at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The protesting athletes demanded Singh’s removal, while Phogat called for his arrest.

Apart from sexual abuse, the athletes have also denounced mismanagement in the WFI.

“I used to be a wrestler, and all of these things used to happen back then, but wrestlers couldn’t speak up and be heard because there was no social media. Wrestlers nowadays are educated, have won many medals (…) and when they saw all of these mishaps, they couldn’t stand it,” Pradeep Chaudhary told EFE.

The former champion of the northern state of Haryana, who is now a lawyer, said he hoped “the guilty will be punished.”

For his part, the WFI president, during a press conference Wednesday, claimed to be innocent, and criticized the athletes for not provided the names of the alleged victims. EFE


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