"Until we get justice": Bajrang, Vinesh, Sakshi resume protest against WFI President

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

India's top wrestlers, including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and double World Championships medallist Vinesh Phogat, have returned to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, to continue their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Accusing Brij Bhushan of sexually harassing seven women wrestlers, which also includes a minor, the wrestlers said that they gave a complaint at Connaught Place Police Station two days back against the WFI chief but the police is yet to file an FIR.

Addressing a press conference, Sakshi Malik has said, "We made a complaint at CP Police Station. It has been two days, but no FIR has been registered yet. Seven women complained, which also includes a minor. It makes for a POSCO case, but nothing has been done yet."

Earlier in the day, Vinesh tweeted: "Various female wrestlers who have brought laurels to this country have been sexually exploited and harassed by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, President, WFI. The Delhi Police is not registering the FIR despite complaints on 21.04.2023."

This development comes three months after they first sat down in protest at Jantar Mantar (on January 18). There they had levelled various allegations against Singh and the federation, including sexual exploitation, mental harassment, death threats, and financial misappropriation.

Following that the Sports Ministry had intervened and constituted an investigation committee to both investigate the complaints of the wrestlers and take over the day-to-day functioning of the WFI. At the time the wrestlers had made known their disappointment that the government did not consult them before forming the oversight committee. The deadline for the committee to submit their report had initially been four weeks but had since been extended.

"It's been three months and we haven't got justice. That's why we are here again, to demand justice. We will sleep, eat here until we get justice," Vinesh said on Sunday.

"The committee should tell us what their decision is. It hasn't happened yet. At least, we should know if we were wrong, or who was wrong," Sakshi demanded. She added, "We keep hearing that we're finished and that's the reason we are protesting. Are we really finished? We won medals at the latest Commonwealth Games. All we are hearing is that we are protesting because our wrestling careers are over. Why would we do this? We want to save wrestling. We are protesting to take wrestling away from those hands. We hope that truth will win."

"The federation is organising nationals, they're running day-to-day affairs, their office is open, so where are they listening to us? So were we sitting here for nothing? If an FIR is registered, you'll know if we were lying or not. First you were saying we weren't filing a case, now when seven women have filed a complaint, they're not registering an FIR. We will not move from here unless he's arrested," Bajrang said.

Vinesh, speaking to ESPN two weeks ago, had said that she would be continuing the fight. "What else can I do? Where else can I go? What will they do? Harm us?... There are so many people giving up their lives for the nation. Even our sacrifice will be remembered as the athletes who took a stand to save sports in the country. Who knows, this may bring about a positive change in sports. If sports improve because of an athlete, then is there a bigger medal than this? Winning this battle would be no less than a medal."