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''Looked up to her for support': Wrestlers after PT Usha criticises protest

Following PT Usha's strong criticism, wrestlers responded to her and said that they are hurt by her comments, as they looked up to her for support

Wrestlers, Indian wrestlers

Wrestlers rest under mosquito nets following a night stay at Jantar Mantar amid their protest, in New Delhi, early Wednesday, April 27, 2023. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)

BS Web Team New Delhi

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Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President and former athlete P T Usha on Thursday commented on the ongoing protest by the wrestlers in connection with alleged sexual harassment charges against Wrestling Federation of India's chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

PT Usha said that the wrestlers should have approached the IOA earlier instead of going out in the streets. She further added that the protesting wrestlers should have waited for the report of a committee that is looking into their allegations against the WFI chief. Singh, a BJP MP has denied all the allegations and has indicated that he will fight fiercely to prove his innocence.

Many ace Indian wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sakshi Malik are involved in the ongoing protests and as many as seven women wrestlers have come out to report incidents of alleged sexual harassment by Singh.

Following PT Usha's strong criticism, wrestlers responded to her and said that they are hurt by her comments, as they looked up to her for support. 

According to media reports, wrestler Sakshi Malik said, "We feel hurt by PT Usha's comment. She is not supporting us despite being a woman herself. What indiscipline have we done? We are sitting here peacefully. If we had got justice, we would not have done this."

She further added, 'Being a woman athlete, she (PT Usha) is not listening to other women athletes. We have followed her since childhood and got inspired by her. Where is indiscipline here, we are sitting here peacefully."

Commonwealth Games gold medalist Vinesh Phogat also expressed her frustration with PT Usha's comment and added that the comment of the IOA chief was 'insensitive'.

Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia also expressed his disappointment with PT Usha's comment and said, "You feel sad when she says these things because she is the IOA Chief and a woman herself, she cried for her academy in front of the media. She wants us to approach IOA, but we went there three months back, but no justice was given."

Earlier today, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur rejected the claims of inaction by the government in connection with the case.  Thakur told the media, "The government got the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to set up an Oversight Committee and is now taking action based on major findings in the report submitted by it, by requesting the IOA to set an Ad-hoc Committee and conduct free and fair elections within 45 days. He said as per another finding of the report, an internal committee will be constituted after the elections and it will look into all complaints of sexual and mental harassment."

The matter has now also caught the attention of the Supreme Court after the Delhi Police informed the court that "a preliminary probe would be needed before lodging an FIR against WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment. Delhi Police apprised the court that the police felt that there were some issues that needed preliminary inquiry. However, Delhi Police clarified that it has no hesitation to lodge FIR immediately if the court orders."

The ace wrestlers resumed their protest on April 23, after they ended a similar protest three months ago. 

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First Published: Apr 27 2023 | 11:53 PM IST

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