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Wrestlers Protest: International Olympics Committee Steps In, Calls For Urgent Action On Sexual Harassment Allegations

The grapplers had resumed their agitation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23 at Jantar Mantar and stayed there till May 28, the day they were detained by the Delhi Police during their march towards the new Parliament building.

Protesting wrestlers sit at Har ki Pauri, in Haridwar district, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (PTI Photo)
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Hours after the international governing body for amateur wrestling - United World Wrestling - condemned the police action against protesting wrestlers, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stepped in, urging that the allegations by the wrestlers should be followed up on by an 'unbiased, criminal investigation in line with the local law'. 

The grapplers had resumed their agitation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23 at Jantar Mantar and stayed there till May 28, the day they were detained by the Delhi Police during their march towards the new Parliament building.

Immediately after their detention, the police cleared the protest site and made it clear that wrestlers will not be allowed back at the Jantar Mantar. The police action against the wrestlers drew criticism from different quarters.

On Tuesday, they threatened to immerse their medals into the holy river Ganga but the farmer leaders stopped them from taking the extreme step.

"The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with the local law. We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible," the IOC said in a statement.

The IOC further said that it has been in "close contact" with the UWW which has already taken measures. It further supported UWW as the 'competent sporting authority' to address this issue as it pertains to the governance of the sport of wrestling in India. "The IOC will continue to support UWW in all their efforts and in the framework of the IOC Guidelines for International Federsations and NOCs for safeugarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport," it further said.

The IOC further urged the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take all the necessary actions to protect the athletes and to make sure that the elections of the WFI are happening as planned and in line with the regulations of UWW as an International Federation.

The wrestlers have been demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan, who they have accused of sexual exploitation. Two FIRs were filed against him, including one in POCSO act. 

The oversight panel, which was formed by the government to probe the allegations, did not make its findings public but sources had claimed that the six-member committee did not find any incriminating evidence against Brij Bhushan.

The WFI chief has denied all the charges and said that even if one allegation is proved, he will "hang himself".

"They were crying since morning. It is not easy to throw away even a medal won at district level and they were ready to throw away those big international medals. They were shell-shocked, not a word was coming out of their mouths," said a member of the protesting group.

(With inputs from PTI)

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