Several leading Indian wrestlers are demanding an inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), amid a days-long protest in New Delhi.
The wrestlers are also calling for the president’s dismissal and the dissolution of the WFI.
In a letter addressed to the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and shared on Twitter, five wrestlers say “several young wrestlers” have raised serious complaints of “sexual harassment” against WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The wrestlers have been protesting for the past three days in the Indian capital of New Delhi and have attended several meetings with senior government officials.
Olympic wrestler Vinesh Phogat, along with four others, have said they’re speaking on behalf of the accusers to protect their identity and have not publicly released details about the young wrestlers’ accusations.
In the letter, Phogat herself says she “was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI president” and says “she almost contemplated suicide” due to the pressure she was under.
CNN reached out to the WFI for comment and Vinod Tomar, the federation’s assistant secretary, denied all the accusations.
“An inquiry is going on,” Tomar added. “These are allegations only and yet to be proved.”
CNN also reached out to the WFI president and his office declined to comment at the time.
The federation also postponed a press conference scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, the president of the IOA is voicing her support for the protesting wrestlers. PT Usha tweeted Thursday that the welfare of athletes was of the highest priority.
“We request athletes to come forward and voice their concerns with us. We will ensure a complete investigation to ensure justice,” she added.
In the letter, Phogat and her fellow wrestlers say “it has taken a lot of courage for the wrestlers to come together” and file 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 does not support them, the morale breaks down.”
India’s sports ministry has asked the WFI to respond to the allegations within 72 hours, Anurag Thakur, the Indian Sports Minister told local reporters Thursday.
In a statement on Twitter, politician Babita Kumari Phogat, a former female wrestler and three-time Commonwealth Games medalist, said she stands with her fellow wrestlers.
“I am with my players in this fight. I have full faith in the government that it will do justice to the sportspersons of the country who raise the country’s honor in the world,” she said.