Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha on Wednesday met with wrestlers who have been sitting on a protest demanding the removal of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment.
The former athlete arrived at Jantar Mantar in the national capital where top grapplers have been staging a protest for the last 11 days. She was seen conversing with wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia at the site.
Usha left without speaking with the media but Bajrang Punia said she has assured them help.
"PT Usha met us and assured her support. She said she is first an athlete and then an administrator. She assured she will help us in getting justice," Bajrang told media.
"PT Usha said she was misinterpreted," he added, referring to her comment on wrestlers' lack of discipline.
"Initially when she said that, we felt very bad but then she said that her comments were misinterpreted. She said that she is first an athlete and then an administrator," said Bajrang, the Tokyo Games bronze medallist.
"We told her that we want justice. We don't have a fight with the government or opposition or anyone else. We are sitting here for the betterment of wrestling. If this issue is resolved and if the allegations (against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) are proved then there should be legal action," he added.
When asked if Usha had come with a solution from the government or from the IOA, Punia said, "Nothing of that sort".
"She only said that she is with us."
Asked if he was satisfied following the meeting with Usha, he said, "If she is giving us assurance, I suppose she should fulfil that assurance. But we clarified to her that until and unless things are not okay and we get justice, of which we are very hopeful, this protest will continue."
Asked if any solution had emerged, he said, "If the things she has spoke about... if there is an initiative along those lines, then definitely there will be a solution to this issue. She said she will try to resolve all our problems. If she wants she can do anything."
The Olympic 2021 Bronze medalist further added that the wrestlers will continue their protest till the time the WFI Chief is put behind bars.
"We will stay here until he goes to jail," Punia said.
Previously, Usha had on April 27 said that the wrestlers should have approached the IOA instead of going out in the streets against the WFI and its president, whom the wrestlers accused of sexual harassment and mismanagement of athletes.
"Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is having a committee for sexual harassment, instead of going to the streets they (protesting wrestlers) could have come to us earlier but they did not come to IOA. It is not good for sports not only for wrestlers, they should also have some discipline," the IOA president had said.
Wrestlers had expressed their disappointment at her remarks.
"Being a woman athlete, she (PT Usha) is not listening to other women athletes. We have followed her since childhood and got inspired by her. Where is indiscipline here, we are sitting here peacefully," Sakshi Malik told mediapersons.
Vinesh Phogat, a CWG and World Championships medalist also termed Usha's comments as "insensitive".
Three months ago, when prominent wrestlers came forward to lead a protest against WFI Chief, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced the formation of an 'oversight committee' to probe allegations levelled against the WFI and its chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and other coaches.
The committee was tasked with submitting a report on the issue to the ministry.
The wrestlers launched a fresh protest in April.
On April 30, Delhi Police registered two FIRs against WFI president Singh over allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation of female wrestlers by him. Top Indian grapplers such as Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and many other wrestlers are involved in the protest against the WFI chief.