A day after ace wrestler Sakshee Malikkh raised concerns regarding the upcoming junior national competitions, the government has suspended the newly-elected Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) panel for the “hasty” announcement.
The Sports ministry’s statement also noted that the newly elected body “appears to be (in) complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code”.
The business of WFI, the ministry said, is being run from the premises controlled by former office bearers. “Which is also alleged premises wherein sexual harassment of the players have been alleged and (at) present the court in hearing the matter,” it added.
Responding to the Sports Ministry’s move, Sanjay Singh said he had not received any letter yet. “I was in the flight. I’ve not received any letter yet. First, let me see the letter, only then I will comment. I heard that some activity has been stopped,” he told news agency ANI.
The Sports ministry’s strong rebuke comes days after Sanjay Singh, an aide of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, succeeded him in the elections for the country’s top wrestling body.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a six-time BJP MP, had to step aside after the country’s top wrestlers, including Ms Malikkh, accused him of sexually harassing women wrestlers.
The top wrestlers, also including Olympic Games bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat, hit the streets in January to seek action against the BJP MP. They had called off the agitation following assurances from the government. A probe was also launched against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The WFI elections on Thursday saw Sanjay Singh post a thumping victory against Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran, who was backed by the protesting wrestlers.
Despite assurances that close aides and relatives of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will not be allowed to contest the polls, the nomination of Sanjay Singh was cleared.
Expressing disappoint at the election results, Ms Malikkh had announced that she is quitting the sport. During an interaction with the media, the 2016 Olympics bronze medallist put her boots on the table and said they had wanted the wrestling body to get a woman chief. “But that did not happen. We fought, but if the new president is Brij Bhushan’s aide, his business partner, then I quit wrestling,” she had said.
Visuals of her breaking down during the media interaction sparked outrage, with Opposition leaders accusing the government of shielding the ruling party MP despite the serious allegations against him.
The new president Sanjay Singh had said after his victory that he is close to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and trashed the allegations against him. However, he stressed that he is no dummy candidate for the BJP MP and slammed the protesting wrestlers for “politics”.
In a social media post yesterday, Ms Malikkh said she had quit the sport but was worried about junior women wrestlers. “They are calling me up and telling me that the junior nationals on December 28 are being held at Gonda (in Uttar Pradesh). Gonda is a stronghold of Brij Bhushan. Now imagine what kind of atmosphere the junior women wrestlers will be competing in,” she said in a post on X.
The ministry’s note says the new announcement to hold junior national does not give participants “sufficient notice” and was issued “without following the provisions of the constitution of WFI”.
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“The decisions made by the newly elected executive body of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) demonstrate a blatant disregard for the established legal and procedural norms, violating both the WFI’s constitutional provisions and the National Sports Development Code,” it said.
The ministry also noted that the international wrestling body was yet to issue a communication lifting the suspension on WFI. The national wrestling body was suspended after its internal polls were delayed due to the sexual harassment row and court cases.