By Bhavya Chand
New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS): The ongoing feud between the grapplers and the Wrestling Federation of India and its chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, against whom female wrestlers have levelled charges of sexual harassment, is a major topic of discussion nowadays.
Speaking to IANS on the issue in a telephonic interaction, sports activist and advocate Rahul Mehra gave his take on the entire episode and how it is impacting the athletes.
He said that the WFI is the culprit, who made the country's wrestlers sit on protest but more than the federation it's the sports ministry, who is responsible for the entire fiasco.
"Athletes are also humans, they are also made of the same blood and the same flesh and they also think the way we do. Just a matter of fact they are stronger than anybody else. They have goals they want to achieve and they are quite focused on that so to say that they won't be impacted obviously is not the truth. The question is, why did matters come to such a state where they should be impacted? Why should they be sitting on protest? Mehra said.
"Who made it happen? It's the federation bosses, especially the president of the WFI. The federation is the obvious culprit but more than the federation, it's the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, which has a regulation, a binding mandated document in the form of the National Sports Development Code of India, passed in 2011. And in more than 12 years they didn't even bother to see whether the federation is violating their directives."
He added that the federation has been violating the norms for 12 years and the ministry is guilty of not having suspended the wrestling body a long time back.
"So, the ministry is guilty of not having suspended or derecognized this body a long time back for the simple reason that he is a MP from the ruling party and therefore they've intentionally behaved like an ostrich and put their heads in the sand," he said.
This is not the first instance when allegations of sexual harassment have rocked Indian sports. In January 2020, an FIR was registered against a coach for allegedly harassing a woman cricketer. In July 2021, seven sportspersons accused coach P Nagarajan of sexual harassment, who already had a complaint filed against him and was reportedly abusing athletes for years.
Speaking with reference to other instances of sexual harassment, Mehra said the case where harassment is by a colleague and the case of the WFI chief are different as a coach cannot exploit the same power as the head of the federation.
"The biggest disservice you will do to sports is to equate a coach's sexual harassment with the sexual harassment by the person who is wielding so much power, like the president of the WFI. There's a small coach who is misusing his position of power, but here, a very powerful person, a Member of Parliament five times.
"This kind of instance that happened with other coaches is absolutely uncollated because those are cases of sexual harassment by a colleague. This is sexual harassment by a person who is in a dominant position, who's in a position to mess up your entire selection process, file false charges against you to ensure that your career is completely dead and buried. So, rules are there, regulations are there, laws are there but the problem is people are violating it," he said.