The wrestling community in India has been rocked by a series of allegations of sexual exploitation and harassment, with several wrestlers coming forward to share their stories of abuse. The allegations have once again brought the spotlight on the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its president, Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse and mistreatment of wrestlers.
The allegations of sexual exploitation in Indian wrestling first came to light in 2019, when a junior national wrestling coach was accused of molesting a 16-year-old wrestler. The coach was arrested, but the incident sparked a broader conversation about the culture of sexual abuse and harassment in Indian wrestling. Several other wrestlers, both male, and female, came forward to share their stories of abuse, with many alleging that the WFI and Singh had done nothing to address the issue.
The allegations against Brij Bhushan Saran Singh first surfaced in February 2021 when a wrestler accused him of sexual harassment. The wrestler alleged that Singh had been making unwanted advances towards her and had promised to help her career in exchange for sexual favours. The wrestler also alleged that Singh had threatened to ruin her career if she refused his advances.
Following the allegations, several other wrestlers came forward with similar stories of sexual harassment and exploitation at the hands of Singh and other officials in the Wrestling Federation of India. The wrestlers alleged that they were often subjected to unwanted touching, groping, and lewd comments by Singh and other officials. They also alleged that their complaints were ignored or dismissed by the authorities, and they were afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals.
Despite the gravity of the allegations, the Indian government has been reluctant to act against Singh and the WFI. This is because Singh is a powerful politician and a close ally of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath. Singh’s influence in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is a key battleground in Indian politics, makes him an asset to the ruling party, and they are hesitant to take action against him for fear of losing his support.
The wrestling community, however, has been vocal in its demands for action. Several wrestlers and coaches have come forward to call for a change in the leadership of the WFI and for a thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual exploitation and harassment. The wrestlers have also demanded better support and protection for victims of abuse and for stricter laws and punishments for those who commit such crimes.
The protests by the wrestlers have forced the issue of sexual exploitation and harassment in Indian wrestling into the public domain, and have put pressure on the government and the WFI to take action. The wrestlers have also found support from civil society groups and women’s rights organizations, who have called for an end to the culture of silence and impunity that allows sexual abuse to thrive in Indian sports.
The allegations of sexual exploitation and harassment in Indian wrestling are a stark reminder of the pervasive culture of abuse and harassment that plagues Indian sports. The reluctance of the government and the WFI to act against the perpetrators of such crimes is a reflection of the power dynamics that govern Indian sports, where politicians and officials wield enormous influence.
The plight of wrestlers in India is a sad reflection of the state of Indian sports, where politics and corruption often overshadow talent and hard work. Brij Bhushan Saran Singh’s control over the Wrestling Federation of India has been a major factor in the exploitation and mistreatment of wrestlers in the country. The government’s reluctance to take action against Singh is a clear indication of the political power he wields in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Unless there is a concerted effort to clean up Indian sports and remove the influence of politicians like Singh, the plight of wrestlers in the country is unlikely to improve anytime soon.