Olympian Phogat slams Modi’s silence on wrestling chief’s abuse allegations

Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat has expressed her disappointment over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence regarding the sexual abuse allegations against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Several Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, have been protesting for months, demanding Singh’s arrest. Singh is also a member of parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Phogat, a 28-year-old two-time Olympian, is among seven female athletes who have filed a police case against Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment. She criticised the slow pace of the police inquiry into the accusations in a recent interview with Reuters. Singh has denied the allegations, which include making sexual advances, groping, and threatening female athletes if they refused to meet him alone.

Delhi Police have registered two cases against Singh, one of which falls under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Phogat, the first Indian female wrestler to win both Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold, alleges that Singh repeatedly targeted and groped young athletes during training camps and tournaments.

In her police complaint, Phogat revealed that she had contemplated suicide due to the mental trauma but found renewed strength after a 2021 meeting with Modi, who promised to look into the female wrestlers’ complaints. However, she expressed her emotional distress over the Prime Minister’s silence on the issue.

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Phogat also stated that the accusers had complained to sports minister Anurag Thakur in greater detail, but he showed little interest in listening to their concerns. Neither Thakur nor Modi’s office were immediately available for comment.

A lawyer and close aide to Singh claimed that the allegations were fake and politically motivated, intended to tarnish the WFI president’s career. Phogat and other wrestlers began protesting publicly when their concerns were not addressed, seeking to raise awareness about the mistreatment of top athletes.

The protesters withdrew in January after Singh was stripped of all administrative power at the WFI, but resumed their demonstration on April 23. On May 28, several protesters were briefly detained, and the protest site was forcibly cleared. Images of the athletes being dragged away and carried off in buses sparked criticism from leading athletes and opposition politicians.

The International Olympic Committee has condemned the detainment of the wrestlers and criticised the investigation’s lack of results. Meanwhile, Singh is set to hold a public rally in his political constituency.

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Sara is a journalist and content writer who specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics. Sara's journey in journalism began as a copywriter, and over time, her portfolio expanded to include articles and features for some of the nation's top lifestyle publications. Outside the office, she enjoys practising yoga and exploring hidden locations in Bangkok.

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