Several leading Indian wrestlers are demanding an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), amid a days-long protest in New Delhi.
The wrestlers are also demanding the president’s resignation and the dissolution of the WFI.
In a letter addressed to the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and shared on Twitterfive wrestlers say “several young wrestlers” have filed serious “sexual harassment” complaints against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The wrestlers have been protesting in India’s capital New Delhi for the past three days and have attended several meetings with senior government officials.
Olympic wrestler Vinesh Phogat, along with four others, have said they are speaking on behalf of prosecutors to protect their identities and have not released details of the young wrestlers’ allegations.
In the letter, Phogat herself says she was “mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI president” and says “she almost contemplated suicide” because of the pressure she was under.
CNN reached out to the WFI for comment, and Vinod Tomar, the federation’s assistant secretary, denied all allegations.
“An investigation is underway,” Tomar added. “These are just allegations that have yet to be proven.”
CNN also reached out to the WFI president, and his office declined to comment at the time.
The federation has also postponed a press conference scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, the president of the IOA expresses support for the protesting wrestlers. PT Usha tweeted Thursday that the well-being of athletes was a top priority.
“We are asking athletes to come forward and express their concerns with us. We will ensure a full investigation to ensure justice,” she added.
In the letter, Phogat and her fellow wrestlers say that “it took a lot of courage for the wrestlers to come together” and lodge their complaints against Singh, who is a member of the Indian Parliament with the ruling Bharatiya Janata party.
“We fear for our lives,” they added.
Phogat, the first female Indian wrestler to win gold at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, tweeted Wednesday“The players want self-respect,” adding that “if the federation doesn’t support them, morale collapses.”
India’s sports ministry has asked the WFI to respond to the allegations within 72 hours, Anurag Thakur, India’s sports minister, told local reporters on Thursday.
In a statement on Twitterpolitician Babita Kumari Phogat, a former female wrestler and three-time Commonwealth Games medalist, said she stands by her fellow wrestlers.
“I am with my players in this fight. I have full confidence in the government that it will do justice to the country’s athletes who raise the country’s honor in the world,” she said.