Want a member of our choice in the probe panel…it’s a sensitive issue: Bajrang Punia
Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia has insisted that the protesting wrestlers, who have leveled sexual harassment allegation against Wrestling Federation of India president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, want a candidate of their choice in the probe panel set up by the Sports Ministry.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bajrang said, “Women wrestlers facing sexual harassment are ready to talk to the Oversight Committee only if the person recommended by us is added to the committee. This is a sensitive issue and he should be assured that a fair probe will be conducted.”
In a late night meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, the names of the committee members could not be agreed upon and the wrestlers were asked to take ‘two to three days’ to discuss among themselves and suggest their candidate.
“There was a discussion (with the Sports Minister on Friday) and after that, we asked the Sports Minister to give us time. We said we will talk amongst ourselves as we cannot immediately decide who we want on the committee. We respect all the people named in the committee, they are also sportspersons and we are not finding fault with them. But this is an issue related to girls and a very sensitive issue. We need someone who we can fully trust in the monitoring committee. He said he was surprised when Sports Minister Thakur announced the names of the committee members on Tuesday.
Olympic medalist-boxer Mary Kom heads the committee, which includes Olympic medalist-wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, former badminton player and Mission Olympic Cell member Trupti Murgunde, former CEO of Target Olympic Podium Scheme Rajesh Rajagopalan and former Sports Authority of India executive directors are included. Teams) Radhika Sriman.
Mary Kom’s name was discussed (in the meeting on Friday), Radhika madam’s name was discussed and (former) top CEOs’ names were discussed. But nothing was agreed upon. We said that we will not take any immediate decision. We were told that we would be consulted before finalizing the committee members. After that, there was no communication from the minister or anyone and then we heard that the committee members were named,” said Bajrang, who confirmed that fellow wrestler Yogeshwar’s name was not discussed in the meeting.
The protest by wrestlers, including Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik and two-time world championship bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat, at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar ended last Friday after the wrestlers held a five-hour meeting with Thakur, In which he promised that the allegations would be investigated.
The Oversight Committee is in charge of looking after the day-to-day affairs of the WFI and Singh has been sidelined for a month till the probe is completed.
The wrestlers do not want the committee already nominated by the Sports Minister to be disbanded. But they are hoping that the sports minister will agree to include a member of their choice in the committee when they meet for talks after Republic Day.
“We are hoping that there will be a fair probe and we have faith in the government. Tomorrow is 26th January. It is a proud day for the country. We don’t want to take any action because it’s a big day. We don’t want to protest or say anything that would project a negative picture on Republic Day. We wrestlers fight for the pride of the country. We hope to talk to the Sports Minister again after Republic Day. At present, we are unhappy with what has happened,” said Bajrang.
Last week, accusing Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment, Vinesh had said, “Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed in national camps by coaches and the WFI president. Some of the coaches appointed in the national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. WFI President is also involved in sexual harassment.