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Indian wrestlers demand arrest of federation president during sit-in Women’s Rights News

The wrestlers first protested in January but say not enough is being done to end sexual harassment in the sport.

India’s top wrestlers have returned to the streets of New Delhi to protest their federation president and demand his “immediate arrest” after accusing him of sexually molesting several female athletes.

They also asked the country’s Supreme Court to register the first information report against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Such documents are prepared by the police when they receive information about a suspected crime.

Wrestlers staged their first sit-in in January, demanding action against Singer and several coaches. Singh, an MP from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has denied all allegations.

Vinesh Phogat, one of India’s most awarded female wrestlers and a protest leader, accused Singh of harassing “several young wrestlers” and said she knew “at least 10 to 20 girls” who recounted their experiences in wrestling. The experience of being sexually harassed at a training camp.

Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and other Indian wrestlers take part in a protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, calling for the dissolution of the WFI and a police investigation into its chief, who they have accused of sexually harassing female wrestlers
Indian wrestlers protest WFI in New Delhi in January [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

The protest in January was withdrawn after the sports ministry stripped top WFI executives of all executive powers and asked a supervisory board to investigate the allegations.

“Unless something is done, unless he is arrested, we will not end the protest,” Bajrang Punia, who won a bronze medal in the men’s freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics, told reporters on Monday.

He also asked for support for the wrestlers who have been camped out at the protest site since Sunday.

“This is not wrestling’s solo battle. I’m asking all the athletes in the country, all the players, to come and join us,” the 29-year-old said.

Olympic medalist Sakhi Malik said it was a mistake to withdraw the protest in January.

“The report of the supervisory committee has not been made public and we have reason to believe that the culprit is innocent,” said Malik, who won a bronze medal in the women’s 58kg freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Someone misled us and convinced us to withdraw the protest in January,” she said. “But we’ve learned our lesson and this time we won’t leave without justice.”

The sports ministry on Monday asked the Indian Olympic Association to form an ad hoc committee to manage WFI and call fresh elections within 45 days.

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