Indian Wrestlers Demand Arrest of Federation Chief at Sit-In Protest


India’s top wrestlers have taken to the streets of New Delhi once again to protest against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and demand his immediate arrest for sexual harassment of female athletes. The wrestlers had previously protested in January, but claim that not enough has been done to end sexual harassment in the sport. They have also asked the country’s top court to register a first information report against Singh, which is a document written up by police when they receive information about the alleged commission of a crime.

Singh, who is a member of parliament from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has denied all allegations. However, Vinesh Phogat, one of India’s most decorated female wrestlers and a protest leader, has accused Singh of harassing “several young wrestlers” and said she knew “at least 10 to 20 girls” who had recounted sexual harassment at wrestling camp.

The initial sit-in in January was conducted to demand action against Singh and several coaches. The protest was withdrawn after the sports ministry stripped the WFI top brass of all administrative powers and asked an oversight committee to look into the allegations. However, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik said withdrawing the protest in January was a mistake, as “the report by the oversight committee was not made public, and we have reasons to believe the culprits got a clean chit.”

The wrestlers have been camping at the protest site since Sunday and have asked for support from all athletes and players in the country. Bajrang Punia, who won the men’s freestyle bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, told reporters on Monday that “unless there is some action, unless he’s arrested, we are not going to end our protest.” The sports ministry has asked the Indian Olympic Association to form an ad hoc committee to run the WFI and hold a new election within 45 days.