They are regulars on the tatami mats, but the fight she has been waging for several months is unprecedented and unbalanced. Since January 18, seven top female Indian wrestlers, including two Olympic medalists, Vinesh Phogat (28) and Sakshi Malik (30), supported by their male colleagues, accuse the president of the Indian Wrestling Federation, Bhushan Sharan Singh , 66, of sexual abuse committed during warm-ups, in his office in New Delhi and during tournaments. One of them is minor.
Despite their notoriety and sporting achievements – Sakshi Malik is the first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal, bronze, at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil, and Vinesh Phogat was a gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and the 2018 Asian Games – they hit a wall. The police did nothing for months and the government ignored them, now Bhushan Sharan Singh in office.
Thursday, June 8, their determination finally paid off: the Minister of Sports, Anurag Thakur, received the wrestlers and promised them to submit an investigation report by June 15. He pledged that Bhushan Sharan Singh will no longer play a leadership role in the federation, which is due for renewal at the end of June.
This one, provocative and aggressive, ensures that the accusations are baseless. He describes the movement as “political vendetta” and says he’s ready “to be hanged” if only one wrestler is able to prove her charges. The man is not just anybody. He is a member of Uttar Pradesh, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party), the formation of the Prime Minister, elected six times, and preceded by a sulphurous reputation. He has been charged in the past, but never convicted, in several cases, for theft, violence, attempted murder, criminal intimidation, kidnapping, etc. He was notably prosecuted for having participated in the destruction of the Babri mosque, in Ayodhya, in 1992, when he led a student union of the Hindu nationalist galaxy. He has chaired the Wrestling Federation for ten years, feared for his autocratic and brutal methods.
Public opinion shocked
The female wrestlers, along with fellow male Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia, first staged a sit-in in January to demand his departure, but called it off days later after the sports minister promised a fair and thorough investigation. The latter had announced the formation of a monitoring committee to look into the allegations and claimed to have asked Mr Singh to temporarily stand aside. Alas, the committee’s report, presented at the beginning of April, has not been made public and Bhushan Sharan Singh is still in place.
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