Accused of sexual harassment by India's top wrestlers, under-fire national federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said on Monday that he is ready to be 'hanged' but wrestling activity should not stop as it would be detrimental to the cadet and junior wrestlers.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar (Pic: AFP)
Accused of sexual harassment by India's top wrestlers, under-fire national federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said on Monday that all activity in the sport had come to a standstill in the last four months due to protests by the country's top wrestlers. He further added that he is ready to be 'hanged' but wrestling activity, including national championships and camps, should not stop as it would be detrimental to the cadet and junior wrestlers.
"All wrestling activity has come to a standstill in the last four months. I say hang me, but don't stop wrestling activity; don't play with the future of children. Allow the cadet nationals to take place, whosoever organises it... be it Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, but don't stop the (wrestling) activity," said Brij Bhushan in an interaction with the media.
Top Indian wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat, among others are protesting at the Jantar Mantar in the national capital demanding action against Brij Bhushan, who they have accused of sexually harassing women grapplers. Following which, two FIRs have also been filed against the BJP MP, the first pertaining to allegations levelled by a minor, which has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act along with relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code concerning outraging modesty. The second FIR has been registered for carrying out comprehensive investigations into the complaints by adult complainants under relevant IPC sections pertaining to outraging of modesty.
The Sports Ministry has stalled the scheduled May 7 elections of the WFI and asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to constitute an ad-hoc committee to conduct the polls within 45 days of its formation and also manage the sports body. The IOA has instituted a three-member ad-hoc panel, including former shooter Suma Shirur, Wushu Association of India chief Bhupendra Singh Bajwa and headed by a yet-to-be-named retired high court judge, to run the affairs of the WFI until a new body is elected.
Brij Bhushan stated the WFI had no problem with whoever wants to organise the cadet nationals, be it the protesting wrestlers, IOA or the government as long as the tournament took place.
"I appeal to them (protesting wrestlers, IOA, government) that you organise the cadet nationals, junior nationals and other tournaments. If not, then the federation (WFI) can organise it. A child who is 14 years and nine months old, he will be 15-plus in three months' time. An opportunity to compete (in the nationals) will go waste if he turns 15. They (IOA, protesting wrestlers, government) should understand this point seriously. Hang me but don't play with the future of children; let the nationals happen, let the camp go on," he added.
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Brij Bhushan has confirmed that he will not contest for the president's post but hinted that he might look for a new role within the federation. He has already served as WFI president for 12 years, with three terms of four years. He is ineligible to apply for the post again under the Sports Code.
On Monday, former India cricketer and political leader Navjot Singh Sidhu questioned the Delhi police over the delay in FIR against Brij Bhushan, demanding criminal action. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin sent DMK's Rajya Sabha MP Abdullah to the protest site, extending support to the wrestlers.
(With PTI inputs)