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Explainer: Round Two Of Wrestlers Vs WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

The accusers have scored a small victory as the Supreme Court is set to hear their side of the story on April 28. The experiences of coastal Karnataka suggest that even the announcement of an election does not dissuade Hindutva groups to engage in polarising activities.

In fact, elections tend to make the polarisation project more active than ever.

The clash between Indian wrestlers and the man they have accused of sexual harassment, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has entered its second phase. Here’s a lowdown.

Why have the wrestlers resumed their demonstration after calling off the first protest in January?

The wrestlers resumed their protest due to the delay in releasing the report on sexual harassment allegations against him, loss of faith in the committee, and the absence of action against the MP, which they were promised in January.

They were also upset that the WFI continued functioning as before, despite the gravity of their accusations. Their reading of the situation was that Brij Bhushan was still running the show. Lending credence to this theory is the fact that the first national tournament since the controversy took place in Gonda, his stomping ground.

Who are the complainants against Brij Bhushan?

The seven complainants who have lodged police complaints against Brij Bhushan have not been identified, but Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, and Bajrang Punia have been at the forefront of the protests since January.

During the first round of protests in January, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia too had showed up at Jantar Mantar or posted videos in support of their fellow fighters.

Why are Phogat, Malik and Co taking the lead in the protests?

Phogat started receiving many calls from female wrestlers concerning Brij Bhushan’s conduct with them, and the “unsafe environment” at a camp in Lucknow. Phogat spoke with Malik and Punia and decided the issue had to be taken up.

What have the wrestlers accused Brij Bhushan of?

Sexual harassment, financial mismanagement, criminal intimidation and arbitrariness in the functioning of the WFI. The first charge is the most serious, and his offences allegedly span the years from 2012 to 2022. One of his alleged victims is a minor.

In addition to Brij Bhushan, the wrestlers have named other officials and trainers in a letter sent on Monday by the Sports Ministry to the Indian Olympic Association.

Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?

The 66-year-old is a seasoned politician and a six-time MP. He won the Gonda Lok Sabha seat in 1991 and 1999, Balrampur in 2004, and Kaiserganj in 2009, 2014, and 2019. He was a candidate of the BJP in every election save for 2009, when he won on an SP ticket.

In Indian wrestling, he is the last word. He is president of the WFI, vice-president of the Asian Wrestling Federation, and also on the government’s Mission Olympic Cell, which selects athletes for the Target Olympic Podium Scheme

What are the wrestlers’ demanding?

That an FIR be registered against Brij Bhushan basis their police complaint. They also want him to be arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, since one of the complainants is a minor. In addition, they want him removed as the WFI president and the federation to be dissolved.

What has been Brij Bhushan’s and the WFI’s response to the allegations?

Brij Bhushan has denied the charges of sexual harassment. At the time of the January protests, he said he was “willing to be hanged” if he proven guilty. The WFI too has denied accusations of financial mismanagement and operational arbitrariness.

And what steps has the government taken?

In January, the government formed an Oversight Committee to address allegations against Brij Bhushan and manage the daily operations of the WFI, persuading wrestlers to end their protest. The committee, led by MC Mary Kom, was expected to produce its findings within four weeks but did not submit the report until the first week of April.

The committee has since been dissolved. In response to renewed protests, the government invalidated the ongoing WFI election process, which had been scheduled for May 7, and directed the IOA to form an interim panel to oversee elections within 45 days and manage the WFI’s operations until new members assume control.

What are the findings of the Oversight Committee?

The report has yet to be released publicly and is still being examined. However, the Sports Ministry shared the preliminary findings on Monday, highlighting the following key points. It noted:

• The absence of a properly formed Internal Complaints Committee in accordance with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act of 2013, and a lack of sufficient mechanisms for raising awareness among athletes and addressing grievances;

• The necessity for increased transparency and consultation between the Federation and its stakeholders, including athletes;

• The importance of effective communication between the Federation and its athletes.

What’s the latest?

The Supreme Court will hear the matter on Friday, April 28. The wrestlers have emphasized they will continue the protests until their demands are met.

Source: Outlook India