Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Thursday said the Centre was sensitively handling the issue of protesting wrestlers, who are seeking the arrest of outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations. Thakur, who is on a visit to Mumbai, told reporters that the government has accepted the wrestlers’ demand for a committee to probe their allegations and an investigation was underway.
Several Olympic and World Championships medal-winning wrestlers, including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat, have been protesting in New Delhi demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) outgoing chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing several women grapplers, including a minor. The wrestlers recently threatened to immerse their medals in the river Ganga. ”The government is handling the issue of protesting wrestlers sensitively. The wrestlers asked for an FIR which has been filed by the Delhi police. A committee of administrators has been set up by the Wrestling Federation of India as they demanded that its office-bearers shouldn’t be allowed to function,” Thakur said.
The Supreme Court has asked the wrestlers to approach the magistrate court, he said. On Wednesday, Thakur asked the protesting wrestlers not to take any step that could undermine sports or hurt players, and said appropriate action will be taken once the probe into their allegations is completed. He also urged the wrestlers to be patient and have faith in the apex court. Several political parties have stepped up attacks on the government over the issue. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday joined a protest in Kolkata against the alleged manhandling of wrestlers at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday. The Congress also lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking why he did not appeal to the protesting wrestlers to not throw their medals in the Ganga.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said the way protesting Indian wrestlers were treated by the Delhi police over the weekend was ”very disturbing” and that allegations by the wrestlers should be followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation.