IOA president Usha says protest tarnishing the image of India, wrestlers bemused
Bajwa will represent the IOA while Shirur is a Sportsperson of Outstanding Merit. Both members are from two different sports and have nothing to do with wrestling.
CHENNAI: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, PT Usha, has termed the decision of top wrestlers to protest on the streets disappointing and damaging to the image of the country. On Thursday, the IOA had its executive committee meeting at the IOA Bhawan in New Delhi and formed a three-member ad-hoc committee.
Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat as well as coaches and other grapplers hit the streets last week protesting against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. They said charges of sexual harassment levelled against him are grave and despite filing a police complaint, no FIR has been filed against Singh. They were forced to resume protest and take the matter to the Supreme Court.
During an interaction after the meeting, Usha said that “for sexual harassment and all those things, IOA have a committee, the athlete's commission... instead of going to the streets and protest, they should have come to us earlier itself. They have not come to us.”
She said that after the government had requested them to form an ad-hoc committee, they formed one with three members. As of now, Bhupendra Bajwa and shooter Suma Shirur are in the panel while a retired judge will be named later. Bajwa will represent the IOA while Shirur is a Sportsperson of Outstanding Merit. Both members are from two different sports and have nothing to do with wrestling.
When asked if the IOA would go to Jantar Mantar and speak with the wrestlers, Usha said they should have come to IOA earlier. “They should have some discipline,” she said. “If we cannot solve the problem, then they could have gone anywhere. We have to look after the players’ interests and we have to compete at the Asian Games. For that, we have constituted an ad-hoc committee.”
Usha was accompanied by joint-secretary and acting IOA CEO Kalyan Chaubey, who toed the IOA chief’s line and said that she would like to say that this agitation is not good for the image of the country. “We (our country) have a very good reputation and this negative publicity is not good for the country,” he said. “We had a very long meeting today (Thursday).
We discussed the issues with a thorough feeling of the wrestlers, we are with all sportspersons not just the wrestlers... we want to be with them but also under the rules, regulations and the laws of the land.” He also said that the enquiry committee the IOA has formed is ‘very good’ but we need to have same patience as these are very serious allegations and the hearing is still going on. “We have to see what is coming out of the committee report and then only can we comment anything on this.” He said that the day-to-day activities of WFI will be taken care of by the ad-hoc committee immediately. “Within 45 days, they will hold the election as requested by the sports ministry
Later in a statement, she said, “Those protesting are renowned wrestlers who brought laurels to the country. They have an equal responsibility of safeguarding the interest of our sports, sportspersons and also the image of our country. However, I’m disappointed with the way they are sitting on dharna, asking political parties to join them.
The constitution of IOA, in order to respect the autonomy and independence of the national sports federation, doesn’t allow the forming of an ad-hoc committee but the IOA said that they made an exception this time because of the impasse.
Grapplers lash out
Vinesh was visibly upset while talking to reporters in New Delhi.
“We are not on the streets, we are on the soil of our country,” she said. “We are citizens of independent India and this is our right. If she is in pain then she can come to us and join us. We can share our problems. They have formed a committee but not once has she contacted on phone or message.” Bajrang too spoke and said that they did not expect this from Usha.
“If she thinks this is affecting the image of the country, she should also think about how she broke down when her academy was facing some problems some months ago. If such a thing can happen to her who is an MP, then what can happen to us normal players? We have just won medals but we don’t have any power,” she said. “We don’t know why she spoke like this. Being a woman, why she spoke against women? We are really hurt.”