Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs Anurag Thakur has said that even the government wants justice for the wrestlers who have accused the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of sexual harassment. Thakur said that action will be in accordance with the law.
What this means is that the court will take cognisance of the two FIRs filed against Brij Bhushan. Suffice to say, the charges mentioned in the two FIRs – filed on April 28 – would have landed an ordinary citizen in jail.
Brij Bhushan is accused of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation between 2012 and 2022 during wrestling tournaments in India and abroad. Out of the seven complainants, one is a minor. The first FIR is filed under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. Brij Bhushan and WFI secretary Vinod Tomar are named in the FIR.
The second FIR is even more damning, as it includes POCSO charges. The second FIR against Brij Bhushan accuses him of sexual harassment, stalking and criminal intimidation under Sections 354, 354A, 354D and 34 of the IPC, along with Section 10 of the POCSO Act. One of the complainants said in the FIR that the women athletes would travel in groups whenever they left their respective rooms in order to avoid meeting Brij Bhushan alone. The complainant said she was sexually assaulted by Brij Bhushan at an international championship when he allegedly pulled up her T-shirt and slid his hand down her stomach on the pretext of checking her breath.
She further alleged that when she suffered an injury, Brij Bhushan allegedly told her that the federation was willing to bear the expenses for her treatment provided she gives in to his sexual advances.
Another athlete has been quoted in the FIR as saying that Brij Bhushan touched her inappropriately during an international championship and the incident and subsequent stalking left her traumatised. Another wrestler alleged that during one of the international championships, Brij Bhushan groped her in the hotel restaurant.
This complainant said she was touched inappropriately again at the federation office in Delhi, during a league in India, and again during two international competitions over a course of two years. The complainant, who joined wrestling in 2016, is currently 17 years old.
When the grappler won a gold medal in a championship in India, her father alleged that Singh, “on the pretext of taking a photo, forcefully pulled her towards himself and held her so tightly by her arms that she could not move or free herself from his grip”. He then allegedly “further squeezed her towards himself and pressed really hard on her shoulder and then deliberately slid his hand down her shoulder and brushed his hands against her breasts”.
As per the FIR, Brij Bhushan told her to cooperate with her and when she rebuffed him, he allegedly warned her that the trials for the Asian Championship were soon to be held and since she was not cooperating with him, she will have to bear the repercussions in the trials.