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Why Are Our Wrestlers Protesting At The Jantar Mantar?

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sangita Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sarita Mor and Sakshi Malik are leading protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) and its President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for sexually harassment over several years at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

Both women and men wrestlers accuse Wrestling Federation of India, of sexual exploitation and mismanagement.

In another grim example of how India has systematically failed its women, wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sangita Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sarita Mor and Sakshi Malik are leading protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) and its President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for sexually harassment over several years at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

The protest has garnered support from both male and female wrestlers, including Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Jitender Kinha, Satyawart Malik, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled to accuse WFI coaches of mismanagement in the federation and calling for the WFI’s disbandment.

At the silent sit-in protest against the WFI, Phogat claimed that coaches are harassing women and certain coaches, who are favourites of the Federation, misbehave with women coaches as well. They sexually harass girls, she stated. The WFI president has sexually harassed many girls.

“After my defeat in the Tokyo Olympics, the WFI president called me ‘khota sikka,’ [a useless coin]. The Federation mentally tortured me. I would entertain thoughts of ending my life every day. If anything happens to any wrestler, the WFI president will be to blame,” Phogat said.

Efforts are being made to address grievances of women wrestlers

Babita Phogat, three-time Commonwealth Games medallist and BJP leader, has reached out to the protesters, assuring the wrestlers that the government is with them and promising that their issues will be resolved at the soonest.

The Sports Ministry has also sought explanation from the WFI within the next 72 hours on the allegations made. A failure to do so will lead to strict action being taken against the federation. Further, the Women National Wrestling Coaching camp, which was due to start in Lucknow on January 18, 2023 has now been cancelled.

Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Puina has requested the Prime Minister to take action, the protestora also made it clear this is not a political movement as they had politely requested the leader of Communist Party of India, Brinda Karat to step down from stage.

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Puina later told media, “This is a protest to save the future of the sport and the future of women wrestlers. This is not about politics.”

Are governments efforts enough to fix sexism and exploitation of women wrestlers

Unfortunately, this is but a small reminder of the greater issue at hand.

Sexism and exploitation thrive in even the most empowering fields for women and for the issue to reach protest, it is evident that any redressal systems in place have failed to take cognizance of issues on a regular basis, offering next to no punishment for the perpetrators.

Even the solutions being offered here on give little confidence in terms of institutional change.

Abusive authorities know how vulnerable sportswomen are!

Not only in wrestling, hundreds of sportswomen are compelled to comply with the authorities and their abuse till there is no other choice but to agitate.

Women athletes and their families know how despotic powerful political appointees can be, and it takes courage to take the risk and speak the truth. Most of the time, such brave women athletes are forced to give up their careers that they have invested blood, sweat and tears in.

If Indian authorities wish to continue to pride their sports culture in the country and  internationally as well as the contribution of hard-working, progressive women athletes to it. They must immediately reform its sports institutions and reevaluate their appointment policies and process. The only way is by providing better support to each player and to ensure any mismanagement or misdemeanour is quickly and strongly corrected, outside political influence.

This is an ongoing story, keep an eye out for this space for further updates.

Image story: ANI, edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Ria Tirkey

I am Ria from New Delhi. I did my Bachelors in Political Science and History and am currently pursuing my Masters in Political Science from University of Delhi and Postgraduate Diploma in Criminal Justice from read more...

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