Ace Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat, who is one of the leaders of the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, spoke out against Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.
Vinesh slammed Thakur for not taking any action and suppressing the matter by forming a committee.
"We ended our protest after talking to Union Sports Minister (Anurag Thakur), and all the athletes had told him about the sexual harassment. By forming a committee, he tried to suppress the matter there; no action was taken that time," she said.
Thakur later responded to the criticism and said allegations of sexual assault can not be proven through media trials and a proper channel of administrative investigation is required for it.
“FIR has been registered…police investigation will be done. How can anything be done before the investigation?… Anything can’t be decided by media trial…Actions will be taken according to law, against anyone who will be found guilty…Let the police investigate the sexual harassment charges…We should not jump the gun, let the enquiry be over," said Thakur.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief PT Usha today met the wrestlers at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, days after her remarks criticising the protesters.
Speaking to ANI after her visit, Bajrang Punia said that PT Usha had come to support them and said that her comments were misinterpreted.
"She said she will get us justice and that she is an athlete first and then anything else. She said that she will look into our issue and resolve it as early as possible," Punia said.
Usha had criticised the wrestlers for not waiting for the report of a committee that has been tasked to look into their allegations before deciding to sit on a public protest.
"The protest amounts to indiscipline," she had said. "The players should not have protested on the streets. They should have at least waited for the report of the committee. What they have done is not good for the game and the country. It is a negative approach."
The wrestlers had reacted strongly to Usha's statement, saying they were hurt by her comments as they were looking up to her for support.
They are protesting over sexual harassment charges against the WFI chief and demanding his arrest.
Addressing the media, Olympian Phogat said yesterday, "It is very difficult to stand against a person who is misusing his power and position for so long."
She also revealed that the wrestlers had met an official before they started their protest in Jantar Mantar for the first time in January, but no action was taken against the WFI chief.
"Three-four months before we sat at Jantar Mantar, we had met an official, we had told him everything about how women athletes are sexually harassed and mentally tortured when no action was taken, then we sat on Dharna," Vinesh added.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia addressed the allegations that they are protesting against new rules introduced for the selection for the Olympics.
"He (Brij Bhusan) is saying that we have made some rules for the Olympics and therefore these athletes are protesting; firstly, this is not about the Olympics, this is against sexual harassment. And if I talk about the Olympics rule; the federation will take trials of athletes coming from the Olympics, whoever they want," he said.
The WFI chief had also asserted that if he resigns, it would mean that he has accepted the allegations raised by the wrestlers.
Responding to the WFI chief's remark, Vinesh Phogat said all they wanted was justice.