The decision to get Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh to step aside Friday night in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment by the nation’s top wrestlers came after hectic behind-the-scenes initiatives to break the deadlock with the protesting wrestlers.In the absence of “specific, written complaints,” sources said, the Sports Ministry first proposed setting up a panel to probe the allegations but the wrestlers were determined they wouldn’t accept anything short of Singh’s exit.
With Republic Day five days away, there was pressure from the leadership not to prolong the impasse. “This is also India’s G-20 presidency year. Everyone, right from the PM, is conscious about the country’s image,” said a party source. “The top leadership didn’t want the protests to continue. Given that these are sexual harassment allegations, there is also not much scope to give a long rope to the accused.”That’s why, from a late-night intervention Friday by a senior member of the government to two prolonged meetings with the Sports Minister Anurag Thakur — who cut short his Himachal visit to return to the capital — the Government had its task cut out.The Indian Express has learnt that the protesting wrestlers called off their three-day protest only after they received assurances that action will be taken against Singh. They were also given guarantees regarding their own safety, in the backdrop of the allegations they have made against “powerful” officials.On Saturday, the Ministry of Sports announced the suspension of Vinod Tomar, Assistant Secretary, WFI, saying that it “has the reasons to believe that his continued presence will be detrimental” to the “development of this high priority discipline.”Tomar’s exit comes a day after the wrestlers’ meeting with Thakur – the second in as many days – which lasted for almost seven hours. During the meeting Friday, sources said, the wrestlers also spoke to a senior member of the Government.