New developments in the case against Wrestling Federation of India president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have come to light, with Jagbir Singh, an international wrestling referee, telling the media that he has personally witnessed Brij Bhushan harassing female wrestlers on multiple occasions.
Speaking about an incident in March last year in Lucknow, Jagbir told various media organisations in interviews that he saw Brij Bhushan grabbed a woman wrestler "in a place one shouldn't touch a woman". The Delhi Police, which recorded the statements of more than 200 people following allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, Jagbir’s statement on May 20, 2023, in Patiala.
One of the seven women wrestlers, on whose complaint First Information Reports, or FIRs, were filed at Delhi's Connaught Place police station last month, has accused Braj Bhushan Singh of molesting her during the photo session after the conclusion of the trial of the Asia Championship (Senior) in Lucknow on March 25, 2022.
The athletes had gathered on the stage for a customary photograph with the federation chief and the head coach when the woman wrestler "suddenly felt a hand on her buttock" which she alleged in the FIR was "highly indecent and objectionable and without her consent". The international referee confirmed he saw Brij Bhushan Singh doing it, after which he said she flinched and walked away angrily, saying she doesn't want the photo to be taken there.
"All of us were huddling for the picture, so everyone noticed this (the woman recoiling and walking away)," Jagbir Singh said.
The police questioned Jagbir only about the Lucknow incident, but he has also made serious allegations against Brij Bhushan Singh regarding another alleged incident in 2013 when he said the federation chief's "horrifying side" was revealed.
During the dinner programme of a competition held in Thailand's Phuket, Singh had molested women players in a drunken state, he said.
"Brij Bhushan Singh and his associates got very drunk and started touching women wrestlers inappropriately, forcefully hugging them, and offering them training gear," Jagbir Singh said. He alleged that some of the women wrestlers were forced to leave the dinner.
"We thought that we have let a rakshas (demon) into our home," he said.
On why he remained silent for so long, he said, "when the protector himself becomes the assaulter, there's nowhere to go".
According to some of the FIRs, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh allegedly groped women athletes, asked inappropriate personal questions, demanded sexual favours to back their careers, brushed his hands across a minor's breast and stalked her. Singh is also accused of creating problems for, and denying professional opportunities to, those who rejected his alleged sexual advances.
It later emerged that the "minor" wrestler who had filed the complaint was not underage at the time of the event and has recorded a fresh statement in court.
Olympian Sakshi Malik, who has been leading the wrestlers’ protests, told NDTV in an exclusive interview that the girl changed her statement under pressure.
"There's huge pressure on us to compromise," she said, accusing Sharan of getting his men to call and threaten the complainants.
Elite grapplers Bajrang Punia and Malik also claimed the minor's father is under depression because of the pressure put on him to withdraw the complaint.
Malik also said they have been demanding the arrest and custodial interrogation of the accused since day one as he has enough power and influence to derail the investigation and intimidate the complainants and witnesses.
"An impartial probe can't be conducted without Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's arrest," she said.
Punia said the protesting 'Mahapanchayat' had decided they would plan future strategy after June 15, the deadline for the investigation given by Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.