Police charge India wrestling chief with sexual harassment

Filing of the charges follows a weeks-long protest by the sport’s top figures demanding Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s arrest.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
Wrestling Federation of India's president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh outside his residence in New Delhi [File: AP Photo]

The police in India have filed charges against the chief of the country’s wrestling federation following complaints of sexual misconduct by female athletes, a police officer told reporters.

The filing of the charges follows a weeks-long protest by the sport’s top figures, including an Olympic medallist, demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a six-time parliamentarian, including five representing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Singh, accused of groping female athletes and demanding sexual favours, has denied the allegations and claimed to be the victim of a “conspiracy” to force him out of parliament.

In a statement on Thursday, the Delhi Police said “after completion of investigation”, they charged Singh with sexual harassment and stalking under the Indian Penal Code.

But police said one of the accusations against Singh lodged by a minor had been withdrawn.

Public prosecutor Atul Shrivastava confirmed that the charges against Singh had been filed.

Vinod Tomar, a Singh acolyte who served as assistant secretary for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), faced the same charges as well as criminal intimidation and abetment.

The wrestlers could not immediately be reached for comment.

In April, India’s top wrestlers, including two-time world champion Vinesh Phogat and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, began a sit-in in the capital, New Delhi, to demand Singh’s arrest.

The protest attracted a groundswell of public sympathy and soon grew in size from a few dozen to thousands.

Olympic gold medallists, including javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra, lent their support to their fellow athletes.

In May, the protesters attempted to march to India’s new parliament just as it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but were dragged away and detained.

At one point, Malik and Phogat had threatened to throw their international medals into the Ganges River unless the police took action.

Authorities opened an investigation into the accusations against Singh after being asked by the Supreme Court to account for the slow pace of progress.

The wrestlers decided to pause the sit-in after the government promised to investigate the sexual harassment allegations, giving itself a Thursday deadline to respond to the protesters’ demands.

It also promised to stage new elections for the WFI and prohibit Singh or members of his family from contesting.

Source: News Agencies