Wrestlers in India seek justice against federation president for alleged sexual abuse

Several Indian wrestlers have filed a police complaint against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, accusing him of sexual abuse.

By: Karim Zidan | 10 months
Wrestlers in India seek justice against federation president for alleged sexual abuse
Indian Wrestlers, Bajrang Punia, along with Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik addresses a press conference during their protest against Wrestling Federation of India [Credit: IMAGO / Hindustan Times]

A group of seven Indian wrestlers have filed a police complaint against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and longstanding politician Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual abuse. 

“Yes, absolutely (the complaint has been filed) – at Connaught Place Police Station,” Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia told ANi news agency in New Dehli. “We have taken this step as there has been no action taken since we lodged our protest with the sports ministry.”

In January 2023, several Indian wrestlers hosted a sit-in to protest the sexual exploitation taking place in Indian wrestling. Vinesh Phogat, a medalist at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, and Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia were among the participants. 

Indian wrestlers demand independent investigation

The wrestlers demanded an independent committee investigate the allegations and threatened to boycott all future events until their requests were met. 

“Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan,” Phogat said during a protest. “Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. The WFI president is also involved in sexual harassment.”

Within a matter of weeks, a committee was established to probe the allegations of sexual abuse and was given a one-month deadline to complete the investigation. The committee has since completed its report, though the findings have not been made public. This has drawn ire from the wrestlers, who are planning to resume their sit-in and boycott. 

Singh has denied allegations

Singh, who is also an MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—the ruling party in India under Modi—has denied the sexual abuse accusations levied against him. The 66-year-old is currently serving his third consecutive term as WFI president, having been elected unopposed in 2019. And while the next round of elections was scheduled to take place on May 7, India’s Sports Ministry announced Monday that the elections should be considered “null and void” due to the acusations levied against Singh.  

“It is requested that a transitory or Ad-Hoc committee of the IOA to be formed to hold WFI elections within 45 days of the formation of the committee,” read the letter the Sports Ministry sent to the Indian Olympic Association. 

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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