India’s protesting wrestlers to take sexual abuse fight to court

Top wrestlers, including Olympic medallists, have accused their powerful federation chief of sexual harassment.

Top Indian wrestlers who have accused their federation president of sexual harassment say they take the matter to court rather than return to street protests.

Olympic medallists and other Indian wrestling champions participated in a weeks-long sit-in in the capital New Delhi, accusing federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of groping women athletes and demanding sexual favours.

Singh, 66, is also a powerful legislator for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Police charged him on June 15 with sexual harassment and stalking, accusations he denies.

“The wrestlers’ fight will continue in court and not on the road till we get justice,” three wrestlers, including world championship bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, wrote in a joint statement on social media on Sunday.

Wrestling is hugely popular in rural northern India and images of star athletes being detained as they tried to march to parliament in May went viral on social media.

The government has said Singh will have no role to play as part of a shake-up in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), with elections expected in July.

According to The Times of India, the wrestlers said the government had fulfilled its promise to file charges against Singh.

“Regarding the reform in WFI, the election process, as promised, has begun,” the wrestlers said in the widely reported joint message.

Singh is serving his sixth term as a BJP legislator from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and has headed the wrestling federation for more than a decade.

The powerful politician has denied the allegations and says he is the victim of a “conspiracy” to force him out of parliament.