Athletes Silent on Protest; Vinesh Phogat Says “Are you Afraid” to Cricketers

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Vinesh Phogat voiced her dissatisfaction with the insufficient backing received from notable cricket and sports personalities during the ongoing wrestlers' protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP.

Renowned wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and others have taken to the streets, calling for justice regarding the sexual harassment allegations they have levelled against the Wrestling Federation of India's (WFI) chief. In the absence of concrete action, these wrestlers have resorted to sleeping on the streets, urging authorities to file a First Information Report (FIR) against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the president of WFI, in relation to the 'Me Too' allegations.

What did Vinesh Phogat say?

As uncertainty prevails, Vinesh Phogat has raised concerns about the silence exhibited by cricketers and several other prominent Indian athletes. She raised concerns about whether the influencing sports personalities were intimidated by the system or if there was any hidden agenda taking place behind the scenes. Additionally, she speculated that there might be an ulterior motive involved, stating,

“You do come forward to congratulate us when we win something. Even the cricketers tweet when that happens. Abhi kya ho gaya? (What has happened now?) Are you so afraid of the system? Or maybe there’s something fishy going on there too? (Unke daal mein bhi kaala hai, yeh maan ke chale hum?).”

Phogat remarked that while the leading athletes in the country may not be obligated to choose a side, they could at the very least voice a neutral stance and advocate for justice for all parties concerned. Furthermore, she emphasised that despite cricket enjoying widespread popularity in India, none of the prominent cricketers has addressed the present matter, nor have the top badminton players, athletes, and boxers.

She also acknowledged that their concerns might be connected to the potential impact on their sponsorships and brand deals. However, she expressed her disappointment that they were reluctant to show solidarity with the protesting wrestlers, despite understanding the reasons behind their hesitation.

She stated,

“We don’t know what they are afraid of. I understand that they may be concerned that this could affect their sponsorship and brand endorsement deals. Maybe that’s why they are afraid to associate themselves with athletes who are protesting. But it pains me.”

Wrestlers continue to protest on the road

Since Sunday, a group of prominent Indian wrestlers has been staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in the Capital, advocating for the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against Brij Bhushan. Among the protesters are seven female wrestlers, including a minor. Each of them has individually lodged a police complaint against Brij Bhushan, accusing him of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation. Amidst wrestlers’ protests on the streets, the Indian Olympic Association Chief PT Usha has remarked that these athletes are tarnishing the reputation of the country.

Brij Bhushan Singh, who vehemently denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and expressed his determination to fight and prove his innocence, released a video yesterday where he stated that he would prefer death over feeling helpless.

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, who established a committee to investigate the allegations, affirmed yesterday that the government stands in support of the athletes. He personally engaged in a 12-hour discussion with the protesters. Despite the committee submitting its report on April 5, the ministry has refrained from disclosing the findings to the public.

In response to the wrestlers' plea for an urgent hearing, seeking legal action against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Delhi Police. The wrestlers alleged that their charges were not registered as a case.

In other news, India’s Jehan Daruvala eyes podium hat-trick at Azerbaijan

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