IOA chief PT Usha meets protesting wrestlers, offers support

IOA President PT Usha meets the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar. PTI

Days after criticising them for their "indiscipline", Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha met the protesting wrestlers at the Jantar Mantar on Wednesday offering help and support. After the visit, however, the wrestlers reaffirmed their stand, that the protests would continue until the arrest of WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who's accused of sexually harassing seven women wrestlers, including a minor.

When asked about the nature of Usha's visit, Bajrang Punia said, "She told us that 'I'm standing with you, and I will help you get justice'. She assured us that she will do everything she can to help us."

He added, "We told her that we want justice. We are not fighting against government or anybody else, we do not have connections with any (political) party or opposition, we are sitting here only for wrestling."

However, Bajrang reiterated that unless police arrests WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who's accused of sexually harassing seven women wrestlers, including a minor, their protest will continue.

Usha had been critical of the protests, saying, "Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline). Instead of coming to us they have gone straight to the streets. It's not good for sport. Our feeling is that for sexual harassment complaints, IOA has a committee and athletes' commission. Instead of going to the street (again), they should have come to us, but they have not at all come to IOA."

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Vinesh Phogat had claimed that sexual harassment cases were reported twice in the past during the national camp, but the WFI succeeded in sweeping the matter under the carpet. She also blamed sports minister Anurag Thakur for doing the same by forming an oversight panel in January, when the wrestlers took to the streets for the first time instead of taking concrete action.

Sakshi Malik had also reiterated the same, saying, "In 2012, a national camp was organised for juniors in Lucknow. An FIR was registered for sexual harassment, but within 24 hours the matter was settled and the FIR vanished. Around 5-7 girls had approached the police back then to register an FIR for sexual harassment."

"We wanted to wrestle and save our careers because we knew how it would end. We did not dare to raise our voices back then but today we have reached a level where we can speak for our fellow athletes," she said.

Last week, Delhi Police registered two FIRs against Singh, including one POCSO charge relating to sexual offences against a minor.