Top Indian wrestlers have been protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, for the past two days at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Olympian Vinesh Phogat has alleged that Singh had sexually harassed several women wrestlers, and had mentally tortured and harassed her after her failure at the Tokyo Olympics, calling her "khota-sikka". Phogat said that even the female coaches were exploited.
"The wrestlers have been struggling for a long time. And it's still going on. We speak for everyone now. We had to speak publicly as no one was listening to us."
Excerpts from the interaction.
Can you explain the difficulties faced by the wrestlers?
The federation president and some coaches are sexually exploiting the athletes. They are using their powers to interfere in our personal lives. They also try to humiliate us in every possible way if we respond. Some thought about ending their lives. If anything happens to the players, the federation president will be held responsible.
Did you get help from the sports ministry?
We are not against the government or the sports ministry. We are being exploited in every possible way. Even the athletes went to the Olympics without enough support. We didn't have a physiotherapist or a coach with us that day.
Didn't the trainers help you?
Not only sports stars but also female coaches have been victims of exploitation. There are two types of coaches within the federation. One is the favourite and the closest person to the head of the federation. The other is the neglected ones. The difficulty for women coaches is that they have to tolerate the exploitation of those in charge.
What is the solution to this?
The management of the federation should be completely changed. We want the central government's positive interventions on the issue we are raising.
The original article was published in Malayala Manorama daily, dated January 20, 2023.