Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have “torn the slogan ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ to shreds”, alleged former discus thrower and Congress leader Krishna Poonia on Friday, over allegations of sexual exploitation of women wrestlers by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Addressing a joint press conference with boxer and Congress leader Vijender Singh, Poonia said that the daughters are being “sexually harassed”, contrary to the expectation of bringing glory to the country by winning medals.
“On one side, our country wants medals, and on the other side, the daughters are being sexually harassed. Would the parents want to send their children to sports in the future? The BJP leaders have torn the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ slogan to shreds. The protests are taking place for 72 hours, and even after this, no steps have been taken by the BJP leaders to resolve it. The federation should be dissolved,” she said. Poonia and Vijender Singh hit out at the Centre over the allegations against the WFI chairman and demanded prompt action on the issue.
“The allegations that they have levelled are very strong. Prime Minister’s elongated silence on the issue is condemnable and shameful. Prompt action should be taken,” he said. Meanwhile, under pressure to resign from his position over allegations of sexual exploitation of women wrestlers, WFI chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has said he will “expose” the “political conspiracy” on Friday afternoon in a press conference.
Singh, who is also a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh in a post on his Facebook said that he will hold a press conference at the Wrestling Training Centre in Nawabganj in the Gonda district of the state. The press conference is scheduled to be held this evening. Earlier Singh said that the presser would be held at noon before changing the time to after 4 pm today.
The development comes hours after some wrestlers had a late-night meeting with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Thursday. Thakur who arrived at his Delhi residence late last evening from Chandigarh met with the wrestlers and the meeting stretched into the early hours of today. According to sources it ended on an indecisive note. Grapplers Sakshee Malikkh, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Ravi Dahiya among others were seen leaving Thakur’s residence at around 3 am today. According to sources, Thakur is likely to meet with wrestlers in the national capital again this morning.
The Union Sports Ministry has also given a deadline to the WFI to respond within 72 hours to the allegations made by the wrestlers. The Ministry stated that if the WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, it will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011. The deadline expires on Saturday.
Wrestlers have levelled charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the WFI president and its coaches and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation. They demanded a complete overhaul of the federation. “We want a complete overhaul of the Wrestling Federation. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) should be dissolved and restructured. There are people in the state wrestling associations too that have linkups with the WFI President. We also want the state associations to be restructured,” Bajrang Punia said yesterday.
The protesting wrestlers have demanded the resignation of the WFI chairman and action to be taken against him.