India female wrestlers allege sexual harassment by officials

Sports

NEW DELHI (AP) — Top India wrestlers led a sit-in protest near the parliament building on Thursday accusing the federation president and coaches of sexually and mentally harassing young wrestlers.

Sakshee Malikkh, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia led about 100 protestors in demanding the immediate removal of Wrestling Foundation of India President Brij Bhushan Charan Singh and other officials pending an inquiry against them.

Protesters at Jantar Mantar carried placards reading “Dictatorship can’t go on,” “We will fight for our rights,” and “Boycott the WFI president.”

Singh, a lawmaker representing the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, rejected the accusations and said he was ready to face any probe.

“If there were complaints against me or some coaches, they should have come forward earlier,” he said.

Some wrestlers later left to meet India Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur.

The ministry on Wednesday asked the wrestling body to answer the accusation made by the wrestlers by Friday “otherwise, the ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation.”

Phogat said she knew of at least 10-20 female wrestlers who were sexually exploited by Singh and others and she will reveal their names when she gets to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah.

Phogat won a world championships bronze medal last year. Punia won bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and Malikkh a bronze at the 2016 Olympics.

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