The group of India’s top wrestlers levelling allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Singh Sharan have lost faith in an Oversight Committee member, grappler Yogeshwar Dutt, after his coach Ramphal Mann was purportedly heard giving details of the hearing during a sting operation by a news channel.
Mann purportedly said that Yogeshwar told him that there was no irrefutable proof about the allegations of sexual harassment against the WFI president. In the nearly seven-minute long video, the coach also gives details of what two alleged victims said before the Oversight Committee and attributed the information he had to London Olympics bronze-medal winner Yogeshwar.
Following the telecast of the sting operation video by ABP news, Tokyo Olympics bronze-medal winner Bajrang Punia, one of the wrestlers who protested at Jantar Mantar last month demanding the removal of Brij Bhushan as WFI president, said that Yogeshwar being a member of the committee was untenable now.
“Yogeshwar should resign on his own from the Oversight Committee or he should be removed from the committee. He has no moral right to remain a member of the committee since it is clear that he does not believe in confidentiality. This is a sensitive matter related to women wrestlers. Each one of them has shown courage to come forward and talk. But instead of trying to understand the sensitive nature of the issue, Yogeshwar seems to be keen to belittle them. We have lost trust in him because he won’t be on the side of justice and will not view things objectively,” Bajrang told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
It is learnt that WFI president Brij Bhushan appeared before the Oversight Committee for the first time on Tuesday. Brij Bhushan met the committee members at the Sports Authority of India office in New Delhi. Yogeshwar too was present, an official said.
Bajrang said that everyone who was part of the hearing, including the Oversight Committee members, had to give an undertaking of confidentiality.
‘Should leave committee on his own’
“We have spoken to sports ministry officials about us being extremely unhappy with what Yogeshwar is doing. We have emailed the committee members and have also tweeted. He should have left the committee on his own when it came to light that he was telling his coach everything that happens during hearings. It is about the security of wrestlers, we all know how powerful the WFI president is,” Bajrang added.
In January, accusing Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment, Vinesh Phogat, a two-time World Championships medallist had said, “Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president. Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. The WFI president is also involved in sexual harassment.”
Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, World Championship bronze medalist Sarita Mor and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya alongwith Vinesh and Bajrang were among those to protest at Jantar Mantar in January.
Requirement of action against a member of oversight committee for leaking sensitive information to the press. @ianuragthakur pic.twitter.com/cUPDDUXhaf
— Vinesh Phogat (@Phogat_Vinesh) February 26, 2023
On Sunday Vinesh had tweeted, “It has come to my recent awareness that a sportsperson member of the Oversight Committee has been allegedly leaking contents of the complaint of sexual harassment while reading certain media reports since yesterday. Being a sportsperson it is extremely disheartening to see a fellow sports-person member of the Oversight Committee has behaved so recklessly. Their attitude towards women is evident from such behaviour…This member has been acting against the interest of women from day one. The lack of empathy and insensitivity displayed by this sportsperson was shocking during the proceedings of the committee.”
The ‘media reports’ Vinesh refers to is the sting operation in which Yogeshwar’s coach Mann is the focus.
Mann is purportedly heard saying that there was no evidence related to the sexual harassment allegations.
“On February 12 Yogeshwar met me, I asked him what happened. He said Bajrang had brought the girls and said they would give proof. Meeting happened from morning to evening, and each person was called individually.”
According to Mann, one girl told the committee that Brij Bhushan had asked for her number but there was no conversation over the phone between them. Another girl said that she did not feel comfortable about Brij Bhushan placing his hand on her shoulder after she returned after winning a medal.
Olympic medallist-boxer Mary Kom heads the Oversight committee which also includes former badminton player and Mission Olympic Cell member Trupti Murgunde, former CEO of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme Rajesh Rajagopalan, and former Sports Authority of India executive director (teams) Radhica Sreeman.
Absence of top wrestlers shows
With some of the country’s top wrestlers skipping the UWW Ranking Series events and other international competitions till action is taken against WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh Sharan, India won just four medals in the first two events. In Alexandria, Egypt. Ankit Gulia won a bronze in Greco Roman (72 kg), while Reetika, an Asian Under-23 Champion, won a freestyle bronze (72kg). In the first ranking series of the year in Zagreb, Croatia, the medal tally was two. Aman Sehrawat won a bronze in the 57 kg while Greco-Roman wrestler Ashu won another bronze in the 67 kg category.