Wrestling: Sports ministry directs IOA to form ad-hoc committee to manage WFI

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, on Monday, April 24, 2023. PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) will be handled by a transitionary, or ad-hoc, committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for the near future. This is as requested by the sports ministry in a letter to the IOA president on Monday.

Elections that had earlier been declared for May 7 have been declared void and it's been requested that the new ad-hoc committee conduct the same within 45 days of its formation. That committee will also oversee day-to-day affairs of the Federation.

The letter also says that the Oversight Committee that had been formed in January to investigate allegations against WFI and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has submitted its report and has now ceased to exist.

The preliminary findings of the committee are -

  • There was no Internal Complaints Committee and there was a lack of an adequate mechanism for awareness building, and for grievance redressal.

  • There is a need for transparency and consultation between the Federation and stakeholders (including sportspersons).

  • There is a need for effective communication between Federation and sportspersons.

It is pertinent to note that none of the allegations raised by the wrestlers have been addressed in these preliminary findings and it remains to be seen if the report will do the same.

Reacting to this development, Vinesh Phogat said, "A committee had been made to manage the day-to-day working [of the WFI - the Oversight Committee] but it was still being run by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and his people, so we are not focusing on this. We are also not focused on the elections... our fight is to ensure FIR is filed on the complaints of sexual harassment made against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and that he is arrested, we want the police to investigate this thoroughly and the honourable court to provide us justice. This is our fight, and we will stay here till we are successful."

She added, "We want the findings of the committee on the sexual harassment complaints made by the wrestlers. If they have not found anything then FIR should be filed on us. If they do find, FIR should filed on Brij Bhushan."

On Sunday, the wrestlers -- led by Olympic medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, and Worlds medalist Vinesh Phogat -- returned to the site of protest that had sparked all this in January. They said that they had received no information about the report or any potential findings and that no one from the Ministry was answering their queries.

They also said that they had raised a complaint at Connaught Place police station (in New Delhi) against WFI president Singh -- with seven women wrestlers (including a minor) accusing him of sexual harassment -- but the police had refused to file an FIR.

They continue to remain at Jantar Mantar, and have stated that they will not leave till they get justice, and the FIR is filed.