Mary Kom to Head Oversight Committee That Will Probe Wrestlers' Harassment Allegations

The government said that it has received information which prima facie indicates that the Wrestling Federation of India has not discharged its duties with respect to the redressal of players' grievances.

New Delhi: Boxing legend M.C. Mary Kom will lead a five-member oversight committee to probe the sexual harassment allegations against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, Dhyanchand awardee Trupti Murgunde, SAI member Radhica Sreeman and ex-CEO TOPS Cdr Rajesh Rajagopalan (Retd) are also part of the committee.

In an order appointing the committee, the Department of Sports, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports said that the government has “received information from the prominent athletes, which prima facie warrants certain action(s), and the Ministry is of the considered view that the Wrestling Federation of India has not discharged its duties with respect to redressal of players’ grievances and conduct of the business of the Federation in a professional manner”.

It said that “considering the unprecedented situation which calls for immediate measures to ameliorate the grievances of sportspersons, and to promote good governance in the WFI,” the ministry has asked the executive committee of the WFI to abstain with immediate effect from administering and managing the day-to-day activities of the Federation.

The committee is mandated to enquire into the allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and/or intimidation, financial irregularities and administrative lapses, levelled by prominent sportspersons; undertake day-to-day administration of WFI. The Oversight Committee was asked to complete the enquiry in four weeks.

WFI Oversight Committee statement by The Wire on Scribd

To demand a clean-up of the sports body, the country’s top wrestlers sat on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, which was termed by Singh, also a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, as “dharna of Shaheen Bagh”.

On January 18, top Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik, Bajrang Punia, among others, accused the BJP MP of sexual harassment and physical abuse. Singh has denied the allegations but has reportedly agreed to step down.

However, it appears that the government has only asked him to “step aside” and not “step down” from his post.

The wrestlers decided to call off their protest on January 20, which began on January 18, saying the government and the sports minister have promised them justice.

The wrestlers have also sent a letter to P.T. Usha, head of the Indian Olympic body, seeking action against Singh.

“Vinesh Phogat was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI chief after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo. She almost contemplated suicide,” the athletes wrote in their letter to Usha, adding that “they fear for their lives”.

They wrote: “It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against the WFI president. We fear for our lives. If he is not sacked then the careers of all the young who joined the dharna will be over.”