SC prodding: FIRs Registered Against WFI Chief After Wrestlers Protest

Wrestlers' Protest FIRs Registered, After SC prodding

The Delhi Police has registered two First Information Reports (FIRs) against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and Kaiser Ganj BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. One FIR was filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. While the other pertains to outraging the modesty of a woman. These FIRs were registered in response to allegations of sexual harassment made by women wrestlers against Singh.

The registration of the FIRs came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Delhi Police. Assured the Supreme Court bench, consisting of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha that the FIRs would be registered on the same day. Despite the registration of the FIRs, the ongoing protest by wrestlers against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is expected to continue. The wrestlers have expressed that they will only cease their protests once Singh is arrested.

On April 21, seven women wrestlers filed separate police complaints against the BJP MP. Accusing him of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation over ten years, from 2012 to 2022. Taking note of the seriousness of the allegations, Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud issued a notice regarding the matter.

Why have the wrestlers resumed their protest now, after calling off their protest at Jantar Mantar in January?

The wrestlers who are protesting against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have stated that they are dissatisfied with the government’s delay. In releasing the report of the committee that investigated the allegations of sexual harassment against him. They have also lost faith in the committee and are unhappy with the lack of action taken against the MP, despite assurances given to them in January.

Additionally, the wrestlers have expressed their displeasure at the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for resuming its activities despite the ongoing probe. They have alleged that Brij Bhushan is still in charge and that the fact that the first national tournament since the controversy broke took place in his hometown of Gonda is evidence of this.

Who are the complainants against Brij Bhushan?

The identities of the seven women wrestlers who have filed police complaints against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have been kept confidential. To protect their identities, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Chandrachud stated on Tuesday that their names would be redacted from judicial records.

While the protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been ongoing since January. Only three wrestlers have been leading the current round of protest at Jantar Mantar since Sunday. These wrestlers are Olympic bronze medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, as well as the gold medallist Vinesh Phogat. In the earlier round of protest, other wrestlers, including younger ones like Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia had also shown support. By joining them at Jantar Mantar or releasing videos. However, they have not been seen at the current protests.

And who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is a veteran politician and administrator, who has been elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) six times. He won the Gonda Lok Sabha seat in 1991 and 1999, Balrampur in 2004, and Kaiserganj in 2009, 2014, and 2019. He contested all these elections except in 2009 as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who hails from Gonda, is 66 years old and was associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. According to his 2019 election affidavit, he was named in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

He is a self-proclaimed wrestling aficionado and has held several administrative roles in the sport. He has served as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Vice-president of the Asian Wrestling Federation, and a member of the government’s Mission Olympic Cell. Which identifies athletes for the Target Olympic Podium Scheme and takes action on their training proposals, among other things.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is known as a political strongman and wields a high degree of influence on wrestling in India. He has had the final say on all matters related to wrestling in the country.

What have the wrestlers accused Brij Bhushan of?

The wrestlers have accused the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) of financial mismanagement and arbitrary functioning. The most serious allegations are those of sexual harassment. The incidents date back as early as 2012 and as recently as 2022. The incidents allegedly occurred at Brij Bhushan’s official MP’s bungalow in New Delhi and during tournaments in India and abroad. One of the complainants is a minor, as per the information shared in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Sports Ministry sent a letter to the Indian Olympic Association on Monday. Stating that the wrestlers have leveled allegations against other federation officials and coaches besides Brij Bhushan, whose identities have not been disclosed yet. The wrestlers have also accused Brij Bhushan of criminal intimidation in their police complaint.

What are the protesting wrestlers demanding?

The wrestlers who have lodged complaints against Brij Bhushan are demanding that he be arrested under the POCSO Act as one of the complainants is a minor. They are also demanding that an FIR be registered against him based on their police complaint. And he should be removed from his position as the WFI president. The wrestlers are further demanding that the federation be dissolved.

How has the WFI responded to the protests?

Brij Bhushan has dismissed the accusations of sexual harassment. And in January he declared that he was willing to be hanged if found guilty. Currently, he has not responded to calls seeking his comments on the ongoing protests. The WFI has also refuted the allegations of financial mismanagement and arbitrariness in its functioning.

On Saturday, Brij Bhushan proclaimed his innocence and said that he was willing to face an investigation. He further alleged that Congress and some industrialists were behind the recent protests by the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar. Bhushan said that his resignation was not a big deal, but he is not a criminal. He said that if he resigned, it would mean that he had accepted the wrestlers’ accusations, and since his tenure is almost over, he saw no need to do so. These statements were reported by news agency ANI.

And what steps has the government taken?

In January, the wrestlers stopped their protest after the government formed an Oversight Committee to investigate the allegations against Brij Bhushan and oversee the WFI’s operations. The committee was chaired by MC Mary Kom and had four weeks to complete its investigation. However, it submitted its report only in early April and has since been disbanded.

Due to the recent protests, the government has canceled the WFI elections scheduled for May 7. Directed the IOA to establish an Ad Hoc committee to manage the federation’s daily operations. Until the new members are elected within 45 days.

What are the findings of the Oversight Committee?

Although the report of the Oversight Committee formed in January to investigate the allegations against Brij Bhushan has not been made public. The Sports Ministry announced on Monday that it had shared the “major findings” of the report following preliminary scrutiny. Among the key findings was the absence of a proper mechanism for awareness building and grievance redressal.

There is a need for more transparency and consultation between the federation and stakeholders and a need for effective communication between the federation and sportspersons. The report is still being examined and has not been made public yet.

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