New Delhi: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the manner in which the protesting Indian wrestlers were being treated by Delhi Police over the weekend, terming it “very disturbing” in a strongly-worded statement.
The IOC’s reaction follows the United World Wrestling’s (UWW) criticism of the detention of the grapplers during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in which the sport’s world body threatened to suspend the national federation if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time.
The top wrestlers — Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat — have accused the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) outgoing president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual exploitation.
“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 local law,” the IOC said in the statement.
“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. We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes is duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded.”
Unprecedented scenes of police dragging Olympic and World Championships medallists, including Sakshi, Vinesh, Bajrang and Sangeeta, were witnessed when the wrestlers and their supporters breached the security cordon during their march towards the new Parliament building for the planned women’s ‘Mahapanchayat’ on Sunday.
The wrestlers are demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan for allegedly sexually harassing several women wrestlers, including a minor.
The IOC further said in its statement, “From the very beginning of the allegations, the IOC has been in close contact with United World Wrestling (UWW), which has already taken measures.
“The IOC supports UWW as the competent sporting authority to address this issue as it pertains to the governance of the sport of wrestling in India. We have been informed by UWW that the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is currently not in charge.
“The IOC will continue to support UWW in all their efforts and in the framework of the IOC Guidelines for International Federations and NOCs for safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport.”
The IOC asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take the necessary actions “to protect the athletes and to make sure that the elections of WFI are happening as planned and in line with the regulations of UWW as an International Federation”.
The wrestlers had called for a women’s Mahapanchayat at the new Parliament building at a time when it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Expressing its disappointment over the “lack of results of the investigations so far”, the UWW on Tuesday said that the sports body will hold a meeting with the wrestlers to inquire about their condition and safety.
Regarding the WFI elections, wrestling’s international governing body said in its statement, “… UWW will request further information about the next elective general assembly from the IOA and the Ad-hoc Committee of the WFI. The 45-day deadline that was initially set to hold this elective assembly shall be respected.
“Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag. It is reminded that UWW already took a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year.”
On April 27, a two-member ad-hoc committee was formed to run the day-to-day affairs of WFI and also conduct the elections. It has been 34 days since, leaving the body with just 11 days to hold the polls.