Press Trust of india

PM must speak up, heads should roll: Cong on sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should break his “silence” on the allegations of sexual harassment against BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Congress said on Thursday. It also asked why the resignations of those involved have not come in till now.

The opposition party’s attack came after star wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Wednesday alleged that that the president had sexually harassed women wrestlers for years, a charge vehemently rejected by the sports administrator.

Several leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Jairam Ramesh and Pawan Khera, spoke on the issue.

“Our players are the pride of the country. They bring laurels to the country by their performance at the world level,” Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

The players have made serious allegations of exploitation against the WFI and its president and their voices should be heard, she said.

“Kuldeep Sengar, Chinmayanand, father-son duo Vinod Arya and Pulkit Arya… and now this new case! The list of BJP leaders committing atrocities against women is endless,” added Ramesh, the Congress’ general secretary in-charge communications.

“Mr PM, was ‘Beti Bachao’ a warning to save daughters from BJP leaders? India is waiting for an answer,” he said on Twitter.

Why are all those who oppress women members of the BJP, Ramesh went on to ask.

“Yesterday, you said that a better environment has been created for sports in the past eight years. Is this the ‘better environment’, in which even our daughters who bring laurels to the country are unsafe?” Ramesh said.

Inaugurating a sports event in Uttar Pradesh via video conferencing on Wednesday, Modi said, “Many talents remained away from the field. But in the last eight years, the country has left behind this old thinking. Work has been done to create a better environment for sports, so now more children and youths are looking at sports as a career option.”

Congress general secretary and senior leader from Haryana Kumari Selja said the government’s ‘Beti Bachao’ has proved to be hollow.

“Wrestlers are staging a sit-in. Where is that senior woman minister, where is she when such a serious matter has come to light,” she said, without naming anyone.

The prime minister should come forward and say that such behaviour against our daughters will not be tolerated, she said.

All women, girls and our players demand an answer, Selja said and alleged that efforts were being made to suppress facts.

Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters here, Congress’ media department head Pawan Khera said Singh’s resignation should have come on Wednesday itself.

“That should have been the first step. Had it been any other sensitive government, it should have happened immediately. Then, the prime minister should issue a statement and restore the confidence of these families. Our families are conservative, it is a difficult choice to send children to train, fight for the country and win medals,” he said.

“The sports minister (Anurag Thakur) should speak out. The prime minister should speak out, there should be resignations, and heads should roll immediately. This should have happened long back, 24 hours is too long a time. The silence is more shocking than what has happened,” Khera said.

What is the hesitation in getting Singh’s resignation and in speaking out, he asked.

Khera alleged that there were plenty of examples where the BJP had given protection to those committing atrocities on women.

Phogat, who has been at loggerheads with the WFI since the Tokyo Olympic Games, also claimed that several coaches at the national camp in Lucknow exploited women wrestlers, adding that there are a few women at the camp who approached the wrestlers at the behest of the WFI president.

The 28-year-old, however, clarified that she never faced such exploitation but claimed that “one victim” was present at the ‘dharna’ they began at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.

Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among the 30 wrestlers who assembled at the protest site.

Singh, 66, was elected unopposed as president of WFI for a third consecutive term in February 2019. Taking note of the allegations, the sports ministry has sought an explanation from WFI.

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