Lack of consultation over setting up of inquiry panel upsets protesting wrestlers

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Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik address a press conference after a meeting with officials of Union Sports Ministry in New Delhi on January 19, 2023.

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik address a press conference after a meeting with officials of Union Sports Ministry in New Delhi on January 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur announced the setting up of a five-member Oversight Committee to investigate sexual harassment charges against Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the wrestlers, leading the protests, on Tuesday expressed disappointment over the setting up of the committee without consulting them.

The three prominent wrestlers — Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik — in similarly worded tweets said it was sad that they were not even consulted before the setting up of the committee. “We were assured that we would be consulted before the setting up of the Oversight Committee,” read the tweets in Hindi tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Mr. Thakur.

Mr. Punia, told The Hindu over phone that the charges against the WFI president was a sensitive matter and they had certain “suggestions” to make before the setting up of the committee. He, however, added that they had no objections to the members in the committee.

The wrestlers would take up the matter with the Sports Minister, said Mr. Punia, adding that the findings of the committee would not be acceptable to them if their suggestions were not considered. The Olympic medallist, however, refused to make the “suggestions” public.

Headed by Olympic medallist boxer M.C. Mary Kom, the committee comprises Olympic medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, well-known shuttler Trupti Murgunde, former Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Commander Rajesh Rajagopalan and former Executive Director (Team) of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Radhica Sreeman.

The panel will probe the allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and intimidation, financial irregularities and administrative lapses in the federation.

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