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Wrestlers call off protest, WFI chief Brij Bhushan to step aside till probe is over

Committee to submit report in 4 weeks, members to be announced today

The wrestlers who were protesting against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh called off their agitation late Friday night Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and others during their ongoing protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi | PTI

The wrestlers who were protesting against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh called off their agitation late Friday night. The decision was announced after Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur assured them that Singh would step aside until the probe into the sexual harassment allegations against him is completed.

The government has decided to form an oversight committee that will investigate the allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers. The committee, members of which will be named on Saturday, will also oversee the day-to-day affairs of the federation.

"It has been decided that an oversight committee will be formed, names for which will be announced tomorrow. The committee will complete its investigation within four weeks. It will thoroughly probe all the allegations be it financial or sexual harassment that have been levelled against WFI and its chief," Thakur said on Friday.

Bajrang Punia said they never wanted to take the protest route but they were "pushed to limit".

"The protest is over. We did not want to sit on dharna but 'paani sar se upar chala gaya tha'. The government has assured us safety and security, we have been threatened by the WFI president in the past also," the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist said, adding that 2023 is a crucial year for them as the Asian Games and Olympic Qualifiers are approaching.

However, under the IOA constitution a National Sports Federation (NSF) can't be dissolved unless it has violated the IOA rules and regulations, or has been de-recognised by the world body of the sport.

It must be mentioned that the wrestlers have not yet provided strong evidence that suggests sexual harassment of women grapplers.

Earlier on Friday, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) formed a seven-member committee, including M.C. Mary Kom and Yogeshwar Dutt, to probe the allegations. The agitating wrestlers had reached out to IOA president P.T. Usha, demanding the formation of an inquiry committee to probe the allegations against Singh. The committee also includes archer Dola Banerjee and Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) president and IOA treasurer Sahdev Yadav.

It is interesting that Yogeshwar is part of the committee as the protesting wrestlers claimed that he was "sitting on the lap of WFI".

IOA president Usha has assured that a thorough investigation will be carried out by the panel to ensure justice.

"A detailed discussion was held on the letter received from the athletes and all the members including special invitees presented their views and suggestions," the IOA said in a statement.

"It was unanimously agreed that IOA must not get carried away by media trials. Further the EC unanimously decided that a Committee will be formed in accordance with the prevention of sexual harassment of women act of 2013 and must hear both sides and submit a report to the IOA President.

"Instructions have been given to the committee to meet at the earliest."

WFI chief and six-time Lok Sabha MP Singh had said he won't step down and likened the protests against him to 'dharna of Shaheen Bagh”. Though he was set to address the press on Friday evening, it was later called off. He is expected to speak with the media on Sunday, after the WFI emergency Executive Council meeting.

(With PTI inputs)


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