Vinesh Phogat, a two-time Olympian, recently voiced her frustrations about the slow progress of a police investigation into sexual harassment accusations directed at the president of India’s national wrestling body, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Phogat is among seven female athletes who lodged a police case against Singh, claiming that he sexually harassed them. Notably, Singh, a federal lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, has categorically denied these accusations. In her first interview since the police disrupted a protest, Phogat recounted the deep humiliation she had felt since speaking out. She accused Singh of adopting a disturbing pattern during training camps and tournaments, where he would single out young athletes for abuse. “It was the same disgusting pattern over and over again, and I am among the victims,” she lamented.
Response from Authorities and Consequences of Silence
Phogat alleges that despite lodging complaints to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, there has been little action or acknowledgment of the issue. “It’s been emotionally draining; the PM has not said anything about this case,” Phogat expressed. Reacting to the allegations, an aide to Singh labeled them as fabricated attempts to ruin the chief’s career. Singh was eventually stripped of all administrative power at the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) as a result of the escalating controversy.
International Criticism and Mounting Evidence
International referee Jagbir Singh, a witness to the alleged inappropriate behavior, supported the accusers. Jagbir claimed to have observed Singh’s misconduct towards female wrestlers numerous times since 2013. “After he became the president during his second tour in 2013 in Kazakhstan…he misbehaved with the girls, and I was a witness to that,” he stated. Despite Singh’s categorical denials, Jagbir remained adamant, claiming that every offender would attempt to refute such accusations. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the detainment of the protesters and criticized the “lack of results” in the investigation.
Delhi Police have been actively investigating these allegations, recently reconstructing events that led to one of the reported incidents. This involved taking a female wrestler to Singh’s office to recreate the sequence of events from an alleged 2019 incident involving WFI secretary Vinod Tomar.
A Plea for Justice
The victims and their supporters continue to call for accountability. “We wanted Singh to be dragged out of his home, but because he is a powerful man, he is roaming around, and we are being told to sit at home,” an emotional Phogat explained. The athletes have also threatened symbolic acts of protest, including throwing their medals into the Ganges, one of India’s holiest rivers, to amplify their plea for justice. The scandal has laid bare systemic issues within the sport, painting a grim picture of the mistreatment of top athletes. The world watches as the victims await an outcome, hoping that their bravery will trigger much-needed change within the wrestling community.
International Pressure and the Future of Indian Wrestling
The International Olympic Committee has joined the chorus of voices expressing concern over the allegations. They have condemned the detainment of the protesters and criticized the lack of progress in the investigation. The allegations have cast a long shadow over the sport, but the athletes’ courageous fight for justice has sparked hope for a more equitable future in Indian wrestling. The investigation, which continues to be closely monitored both locally and internationally, is expected to reach a critical stage by June 15, when the police have promised to complete their inquiries. It remains to be seen whether the Indian legal system will meet the athletes’ expectations for justice.