Wrestlers Protest | Wrestlers’ street protests indiscipline, damage to India’s image: IOA President PT Usha

New Delhi. Lashing out at the protesting wrestlers, Indian Olympic Association president P T Usha on Thursday said street protests were indiscipline and tarnishing the country’s image. Several wrestlers, including star wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, are on a sit-in at Jantar Mantar over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation of wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh. The IOA is yet to complete its probe into the allegations while the probe by a government-appointed monitoring panel is yet to be made public. Frustrated with the three-month-long wait, the wrestlers resumed their dharna at Jantar Mantar from April 23 and approached the Supreme Court seeking the arrest of the WFI president. It is clear that the IOA is not happy with this move by the wrestlers. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is having a committee for sexual harassment, instead of going to the streets they (protesting wrestlers) could have come to us earlier but they didn’t come to IOA. It isn’t good for Sports not only for wrestlers, they should also have some… pic.twitter.com/EaeHQOE4rI — ANI (@ANI) April 27, 2023 We understand their feelings about sexual harassment complaints. The IOA has a committee and a players commission. Instead of hitting the streets, they should have come to us, but none of them came to the IOA.” Usha was asked if the IOA will approach the wrestlers as they are adamant that they will not leave the protest venue until their demands are met, she said, “There should be some discipline.” Instead of coming to us, they straightaway hit the streets, it is not good for the sport.” IOA Joint Secretary Kalyan Choubey said, “IOA President PT Usha would like to say that this kind of agitation is not good for the image of the country. India has a good reputation globally. This negative publicity is not good for the country.” “We want to be with all sportspersons who represent India, not just wrestlers, but we want to do so within the rules and regulations of the country,” he added. Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia said the IOA president’s statement was shocking. Bajrang told PTI, “She has been a player herself and she is also a woman. We did not expect such a strong reaction from him. We expected their support.” He said, “If the IOA feels that the country’s image is being tarnished by the wrestlers’ demand for justice, then what happened when it broke down while expressing its grief over the persecution of some people in its academy.” The wrestler was referring to an incident in February this year when she broke down in tears while talking about harassment at her academy in Kerala at a press conference. When Choubey was asked whether the wrestlers should have waited for the probe to be completed before hitting the streets, he said, “The allegations are serious and we cannot take any decision in haste.” If we can exercise some restraint and wait for the committee to investigate, then we will be able to react. Right now we only discussed the day-to-day functioning of the wrestling federation.” Also read IOA Joint Secretary also confirmed that many witnesses are yet to appear before the inquiry committee. He said, “The investigation is still going on. We are told that the committee has a list of witnesses and the committee will invite them and they will appear before the commission.” The IOA has constituted an ad-hoc committee comprising former shooter Suma Shirur, Wushu Federation of India president Bhupendra Singh Bajwa and a yet-to-be-named retired high court judge to run the affairs of the wrestling federation. Choubey said, “Bhupendra Singh Bajwa will represent the IOA Executive Council in the ad-hoc panel while Suma Shirur is the female sportsperson. He will look after the day-to-day functioning of the Wrestling Federation. We also discussed the names of judges and a retired high court judge will be part of the committee.”

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