New Delhi: Three of the wrestlers who testified in front of the government-appointed Oversight Committee set up to probe the allegations against BJP MP and Wresting Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have said that panel’s proceedings were not fair or transparent.
According to The Indian Express, the Committee allegedly asked all three wrestlers to provide “audio or video” proof of their harassment. A Committee member reportedly told one of the wrestlers that Singh was “like a father figure and his acts were done in all innocence and were misconstrued by us”. Another said that staff members of WFI and a coach who were close to Singh had gathered outside the room, which was “intimidating”.
The Committee is headed by boxer Mary Kom. It has submitted its report to the government, but the report hasn’t been made public.
After the wrestlers lost faith in the Committee, they approached the Delhi Police. The police was given seven complaints of sexual harassment, including one from a minor. Singh allegedly touched the women’s breasts and other parts on the pretext of checking their breathing. One even said he “lifted her jersey”.
Two of the wrestlers, in the police complaint, have mentioned irregularities in the Committee’s functioning, The Indian Express report stated. They alleged that the Committee switched off video recording on multiple occasions while they were testifying.
“At the first hearing itself, a few girls were very uncomfortable as they were asked to appear individually. So from the next time, we attended as a group,” one wrestler told the newspaper.
Another said she “was asked to repeat how she was sexually harassed by Singh when committee members realised that the video recording was not turned on”.
“They (Oversight Committee) were trying to hurry us up. Like they wanted to hear what we said through one ear and let it out from the other and wanted us to wrap up fast. Even before a statement could be completed, we were being prompted to move on. They didn’t try to understand our emotional state and we didn’t feel comfortable speaking before the committee,” the third wrestler told The Indian Express.
The wrestlers were particularly upset about the demand for proof. “They asked us if we had video or audio proof,” one wrestler told The Indian Express. “’Without proof, what can we do?’ they said. I told them which woman will be able to record when sexual harassment is happening. You can’t even breathe when you experience something like that.”
The wrestlers have been accusing both the government and the Delhi Police of not acting on their allegations. Vinesh Phogat, one of the wrestlers who has been at the forefront of the protest, accused Union sports minister Anurag Thakur of engaging in a “hush job”.
A 31-member committee that has been set up to advise the protesting wrestlers has given May 21 as the deadline by which Singh must be arrested. If that does not happen, the protestors will take a “significant decision”, they had said.