Some wrestlers went on protest at Jantar Mantar on 18/1/2023. Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia led the protest. They demanded resignation of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as President of Wrestling Federation of India. They accused him of sexual harassment of wrestlers. They had written to Indian Olympic Association’s President P. T. Usha. Sports Minister Anurag Thakur met them. It was decided to set a panel to probe the allegations. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh stepped aside.
Vinesh Phogat had said “Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI President. Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. The WFI President is also involved in sexual harassment.”
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is BJP MP from Kaiserganj. He had dismissed the accusations as political plot against him and was ready to be hanged if any female wrestler proved sexual harassment. Government of India did not want the protest to continue. Republic Day was nearby. India has G20 Presidency. It would be bad publicity. Narendra Modi has started campaign for 2024 Lok Sabha elections 400 days in advance.
On 21/1/2023 IOA appointed a committee of seven members to probe the accusations. It had Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Yogeshwar Dutt, Alaknanda Ashok, Sahdev Yadav, Talish Ray and Shlok Chandra.
On 23/1/2023 Sports Ministry appointed Oversight Committee of five members. It has to submit its report in four weeks. It had Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt, Trupti Murgunde, Rajesh Rajagopalan and Radhica Sreeman. Mary Kom headed both committees. Yogeshwar Dutt was in both committees.
It seems protesting wrestlers were unhappy at inclusion of Yogeshwar Dutt who had supported Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. On 24/1/2023 Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Sarita Mor posted identical tweets. “We were assured that before the Oversight Committee was set up, we would be consulted. It is very sad that our views were not taken before the committee was formed. @narendramodi @AmitShah @ianuragthakur”.
There was no official reaction from Sports Ministry. Unofficially it informed journalists that names of Mary Kom, Rajesh Rajagopalan and Radhica Sreeman had come from Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia during discussion with Anurag Thakur. There will be no change in Oversight Committee.
On 26/1/2023 Government approved participation of 55 member Indian wrestling contingent in Zagreb Open during 1-5/2/2023. Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia are in the contingent.
Accusations have to be precise with names, places and times. Victims should come forward and narrate what happened. The accused should have a chance to defend themselves. Summary dismissal of accused without trial is wrong. If sexual harassment is of serious nature, there should be police complaints and guilty persons should be in jail. Law should take its course.