‘Anurag Thakur Tried To Suppress The Matter’May 3, 2023 | Pratirodh Bureau
India’s ace wrestler Vinesh Phogat, who has been protesting at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi with other top grapplers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has alleged that Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur tried to suppress the matter by forming an oversight panel instead of taking concrete action.
During the second phase of their protest, wrestlers are demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan, who is also a BJP MP.
“We ended our protest after talking to Union Sports Minister (Anurag Thakur), and all the athletes had told him about the sexual harassment. By forming a committee, he tried to suppress the matter there; no action was taken that time,” Vinesh told reporters.
The ace wrestler also said that it is tough to stand against a powerful person who is misusing his power and position for a very long time.
“It is very difficult to stand against a person who is misusing his power and position for so long,” she said.
The Olympian further revealed that the wrestlers had met an official before they started their protest in Jantar Mantar, for the first time. But, no action was taken.
“Three-four months before we sat at Jantar Mantar, we had met an official, we had told him everything about how women athletes are sexually harassed and mentally tortured; when no action was taken, then we sat on dharna,” Vinesh said.
Vinesh also said that twice in the past sexual harassment cases were reported during the national camp but WFI swept the matter under the carpet. Though the complainants had shared their ordeal in a meeting with the sports minister, he did not do anything except for constituting an oversight panel.
“During the 2012 national camp, a sexual harassment complaint was lodged at a police station. Within 24 hours that case was hushed up. In 2014 a physio, who was also the trainer of Geeta Phogat, raised a similar matter and he was removed from the camp within 24 hours. From that day, his wife could not participate in any competition. Before we started our protest, three months back, we had explained everything to a government official about how sexual harassment was taking place and how women wrestlers were being tortured mentally. The athletes were being pushed to a stage where they could have done anything with their lives,” she said.
“We waited for three-four months but when nothing happened, we came to Jantar Mantar. When we met the sports minister, the women wrestlers shared individual incidents related to sexual harassment. The girls were crying before him but no action was taken at that time. The sports minister tried to hush up matter yet again by forming a committee. We have tried to raise this issue at every level but the matter was always suppressed,” said Vinesh.
The Asian Games gold medallist said now people can understand why they were silent for 12 years.
“We had to play sport. Our career, life was at stake and that’s why we could not muster enough courage. Now we have reached a stage in our careers where we could speak. It’s not easy to stand (up) against a powerful man,” she said.
Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan has refused to resign from the wrestling body, saying it would then mean he has accepted the allegations.
“If I resign that means I have accepted their allegations, my tenure is about to end. Till a new party is formed and the government has formed an IOA committee under that committee elections will be held and then my tenure will end,” he told the media earlier.
The wrestlers’ protest has become a huge political issue, with several opposition leaders showing solidarity with the athletes and demanding the resignation of the WFI chief.