Wrestlers tarnishing India's image: IOA President PT Usha

The IOA is yet to complete its probe into the allegations while the government-formed oversight panel's findings have not been made public as yet

PT Usha
PT Usha

NH Political Bureau

Coming down heavily on the aggrieved wrestlers, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha on Thursday said the grapplers lacked discipline as they hit the streets to resume their protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh instead of approaching them.

Decorated wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik are the three central characters in the renewed protests against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, who has been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation by the grapplers.

The IOA is yet to complete its probe into the allegations while the government-formed oversight panel's findings have not been made public as yet.

Frustrated with the three-month long wait, the peeved wrestlers returned to Jantar Mantar to resume their agitation on April 23, and also approached the Supreme Court, demanding arrest of the WFI boss.

It is clear that the IOA has not liked the wrestlers' move.

"Our feeling is that for sexual harassment complaints, IOA has a committee and athletes' commission. Instead of going to the street (again), they should have come to us, but they have not at all come to IOA," Usha told reporters after the sports body's executive committee meeting.

Asked if the IOA would reach out to the wrestlers since they are adamant that they would not leave the protest site until their demands are met, Usha shot back by saying, "Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline). Instead of coming to us they have gone straight to the streets. It's not good for sport."

In a press release, Usha added, "They are sitting on a dharna and asking all political parties to join them, and that is what disappoints me."

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said IOA president's statement is shocking.

"She herself was an athlete and she is also a woman. We did not expect this harsh reaction from her, we expected support," a flustered Bajrang told PTI.

"If IOA thinks wrestlers demanding justice is tarnishing the image of the country, what was that when she broke down and explained her plight after being harassed by a few goons at her academy. What had happened then," asked Bajrang.

The top wrestler was referring to Usha breaking down during a press conference in February this year when she spoke about harassment at her academy in Balussery, Kerala.

When Kalyan Chaubey was asked if the wresters should have waited for the completion of the probe before hitting the streets, he said, "These are serious allegations, we can't take a decision in haste. If we can have a little bit of patience and see what is coming out from these committees, then we will be able to comment, but right now, we just discussed day-to-day administration of WFI."

The Supreme Court will hear the matter on Friday. The Delhi Police had told the apex court that the matter requires a preliminary enquiry before they could proceed with the filing of an FIR against Brij Bhushan.

Leaders from various political parties have called out Usha for her statement.

Clyde Castro, NCP's National Spokesperson has said "Ms. P T Usha, if according to you, asking for justice is tarnishing the image of our country, then what would you call the act by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as revealed by our women wrestlers and the non-acceptance of FIR by the union home ministry-run Delhi police?

Truth is, you Ms. P T Usha, the IOA, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and the Women and Child Development Minister Ms.Smriti Irani are tarnishing the image of India by not helping our women wrestlers get justice and by not listening to their cries for help."

Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi has said the country’s image is tarnished when “we have MPs accused of sexual harassment going scot free while the victims have to struggle for justice.”

“Am sorry Ma’m we must collectively speak up for our sportswomen not accuse them of tarnishing image when they are the ones who won laurels for our country and gave us reasons to be proud!” Chaturvedi added.

TMC's Mahua Moitra asked whether the allegations against a lawmaker of the ruling party and the Delhi Police's refusal to register a case “makes India smell of roses.”

“Wrestlers protesting on streets tarnishing India's image says @PTUshaOfficial” Moitra wrote on Twitter. “So ruling party MP chairing WFI for years accused of molestation & abuse of power against who @DelhiPolice refuses to lodge FIR in spite of SC order makes India smell of roses, does it?” she said, adding the hashtag ‘StopCrawling’.

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