Vinesh Phogat says member of oversight committee leaked sensitive information in MeToo investigation

Wrestler Vinesh Phogat previously accused WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan of sexual harassment.

Wrestler Vinesh Phogat previously accused WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan of sexual harassment.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Vinesh Phogat has alleged that a member of the oversight committee, tasked with investigating the sexual harassment accusations against coach Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, is leaking sensitive information to the media. This “reckless” behaviour not only undermines women’s dignity and safety, but also compromises the fairness of the MeToo investigation, she wrote in a Twitter post on February 26 evening.

In the post, Ms. Phogat wrote, “It has come to my recent awareness that a sportsperson member of the Oversight Committee has been allegedly leaking contents of the complaint of sexual harassment while reading certain media reports since yesterday.” She tagged Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.

Ms. Phogat added this was “reckless” behaviour on the part of the sportsperson and embodies “their attitude” towards women.

The accusation comes amid an ongoing enmity between the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and wrestlers. On January 18, esteemed wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik come forth with accusations of sexual harassment against BJP MP and WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Several women athletes also spoke about the culture of impunity within WFI, where coaches often harass and misbehave with women athletes and coaches — who come from humble origins and do not have the liberty to speak up — without tangible consequences.

The wrestlers had called off their protest in Jantar Mantar on January 21 after getting assurances from the government that their grievances would be addressed, the first step of which was the stepping aside of under-fire WFI chief.

Notably, Ms. Phogat states it is a sportsperson member of the oversight committee that is compromising the functioning of the investigation.

“It is even more appalling that this sportsperson is a member of both the committees enquiring upon the sexual harassment allegations against high-ranking office bearers of the WFI. All this has placed great mistrust towards the committee proceedings. I am feeling let down at the not just weak but also strategic attempts of this committee member towards what should have been a fair and just investigation,” she added.

Ms. Phogat urged Mr. Thakur to take strict and urgent action against the member, and that the said member should be removed from the committee. “This member has been acting against the interest of women from day one. The lack of empathy and insensitivity displayed by this sportsperson was shocking during the proceedings of the committee. I request this matter to be investigated and all necessary actions to be taken immediately,” she wrote.

The Sports Ministry recently expressed annoyance at top wrestlers refusing to participate in multiple international events amid ongoing tensions with the Wrestling Federation of India.

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