IOA forms panel, headed by Mary Kom, to probe sexual harassment charges against WFI chief
NEW DELHI: Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday formed a seven-member committee, headed by six-time world champion woman boxer MC Mary Kom, to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been camping in his constituency of Gonda in Uttar Pradesh’s Kaiserganj following the unprecedented sit-in protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar by the country’s leading wrestlers demanding his immediate resignation.
Wrestlers Protest: As it happened
Apart from IOA athletes commission chairperson Kom, the other committee members include IOA joint secretary (female) Alaknanda Ashok, sportspersons of outstanding merit (SOM) Yogeshwar Dutt and Dola Banerjee, treasurer Sahdev Yadav and one male and female lawyer, respectively. Beijing Olympics gold medallist shooter, Abhinav Bindra, joined the IOA’s emergency council meeting hosted virtually as an athletes commission member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The members have been tasked to hold dialogues with the agitating wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, among others, and look into the charges of sexual harassment and intimidation against Singh. The members would also like to meet the victims of harassment if the protesting wrestlers wish to share their names with the committee in strict confidentiality.
No time-frame has been set for the committee to submit its report to IOA president PT Usha and the executive council (EC). The members will also try and convince the wrestlers to call off their protest till the time the inquiry into the matter is not completed.
The IOA discussed that they have no authority to dissolve the WFI as demanded by the wrestlers and that it can only be done by the sport’s global governing body — United World Wrestling, which can launch an independent inquiry into the matter after approaching the wrestlers with whom the alleged incidents of sexual harassment has happened through its ethics commission. The EC was of the view that it can only terminate the membership of the WFI as its affiliated unit.
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However, the EC members expressed their unhappiness over the way the wrestlers went public with their grievances instead of first discussing it with the sports ministry, IOA and the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Also, the members weren’t pleased with the timing of the protest organised just two months before the WFI elections are scheduled in March.
Earlier in the day, the wrestlers wrote a detailed letter to Usha reiterating their demand for Singh’s sacking and thorough probe into the allegations of sexual misconduct with national campers by him. The development came a day after Usha extended her support to wrestlers protesting against the continuation of Singh as the federation’s president.
In the letter, signed jointly by Bajrang, Sakshi, Vinesh, Ravi and Deepak, the wrestlers informed Usha that they feared for their lives from Singh and that if he wasn’t sacked, the careers of young grapplers sitting on dharna with them for the third consecutive day at Jantar Mantar will be finished.
“It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against the WFI president. We fear for our lives. If he is not sacked then the careers of all the young wrestlers who have joined this dharna will be over. Vinesh was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI president after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo. She almost contemplated suicide,” the letter stated.
“We will not budge until the WFI president is sacked. We want to reiterate that contrary to perception, there is NO political party or industrialists involvements” it added.
The wrestlers set out four conditions for the IOA to end their protest. “Our demands are to immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment; resignation of the WFI president; dissolution of the WFI and a new committee should be formed to run the affairs of the WFI in consultation with the wrestlers.”
“In addition, there has been financial misappropriation on the part of the WFI. Contract payments were agreed with some of the senior wrestlers in the last few years through sponsorship received from TATA Motors. These payments were only partly made by WFI.
“The coaches and sports science staff that the WFI president puts in the national camps are absolutely incompetent and not in merit. They are just informants and they create a very bad atmosphere in the national camp,” the letter stated.