Wrestlers Protest: Why is it Happening?

Image Courtesy: BBC

It seems no female wrestler will be able to bring an Olympic match for India. Because our system does not respect our players. Some familiar faces of wrestling took to the streets on January 23. There were a few Olympians among them. This includes names like Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat. They say that Wrestling Federation President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has sexually assaulted some of the female wrestlers. One of them is a minor.

The protests started in January 2023. At that time, these wrestlers got an assurance that the sports ministry would take serious action. April 2023 has come to an end and our wrestlers are angry because no action has been taken yet against anybody.

Let us understand why our star wrestlers are protesting and what they want from the government. In January 2023, champion wrestler Vinesh Phogat started receiving calls from many young female wrestlers. A national wrestling camp was being organized in Lucknow. In these calls, the girls said that the environment there could be unsafe for girls. These young girls also said that the President of Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has sexually assaulted them.

After these allegations were made public, a protest started in which many wrestlers participated. The Sports Ministry canceled the National camp that was to be held in Lucknow. The news about the protest spread further and more girls started coming forward. In the interview, Vinesh said that there were three girls who could prove sexual harassment had taken place. They had proof. Six more girls came forward from Kerala and Maharashtra alleging harassment and assault by the WFI president.

After the protests got momentum, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha met the wrestlers and assured them that there will be an investigation on the allegations. One of the wrestlers, Babita Phogat, is herself a BJP leader. The minister had assured an impartial investigation.

The president of the Wrestling Federation, Brij Bhushan Singh, claims that all the allegations are baseless, and if even a single case is proven against him, he should be hanged. As per his counter-allegations, the wrestlers are angry with some rules of the WFI

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur had announced the formation of an Oversight Committee in Jan 2023. The committee was to complete its investigation in just four weeks. Nothing has happened so far.

Seeing all this, would any parent send their girls for sports? All the medals which our female athletes have brought for our country, may remain a thing of the past. We need to take care of our female athletes. It is the duty of our country to keep them safe. They give their blood, sweat and tears to bring honor, prestige, and laurels to our country.

Suresh Nair