'Worrying': World wrestling body flays detention of grapplers, seeks impartial probe

UWW has threatened to suspend WFI if it fails to hold the election on time

PTI05_30_2023_000286A Protesting wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat at Har ki Pauri ghat, in Haridwar | PTI

The United World Wrestling (UWW), a world wrestling body, has come out against the treatment meted out to India's top wrestlers during their protest in Jantar Mantar, stating it "firmly condemns the treatment and detention of the wrestlers."

In a statement released on Tuesday, UWW added that it would suspend the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time.

This comes as police dragged Olympic and world championships medallists, including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat during their march towards the new Parliament building for the women's 'Mahapanchayat' on Sunday. 

The world body said it had been following the protest by the wrestlers over allegations of abuse and harassment by the president of the WFI. "It has taken due note that the WFI President has been put aside at an early stage and is currently not in charge," it added.

The wrestlers are demanding the arrest of outgoing WFI president Brij Bhushan for allegedly sexually harassing several women wrestlers, including a minor.

"The events of these last days are even more worrying that the wrestlers were arrested and temporarily detained by the police for initiating a march of protest. The site where they had been protesting for more than a month has also been cleared out by the authorities."

"UWW firmly condemns the treatment and detention of the wrestlers. It expresses its disappointment over the lack of results of the investigations so far. UWW urges the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations.

"As it has already done since the beginning of this situation, UWW will hold a meeting with the wrestlers to inquire about their condition and safety and reconfirm our support for a fair and just resolution of their concerns."

UWW said it will ban the national federation if it fails to hold the elective general assembly on time. "Finally, UWW will request further information about the next elective general assembly from the IOA and the Ad-hoc Committee of the WFI. The 45-day deadline that was initially set to hold this elective assembly shall be respected," it said.

"Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag. It is reminded that UWW already took a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year." 

Earlier, the Sports Ministry had asked the Indian Olympic Association to form an ad-hoc committee to conduct the elections for the Executive Committee of WFI within 45 days of its formation. The committee was formed on April 27 and it has been 33 days since, leaving the body with just 12 days to hold the polls. 

On Tuesday, the wrestlers threatened to immerse their medals in the river Ganga in Haridwar. But, later decided not to go ahead with their plan after farmer leader Naresh Tikait reached Haridwar and spoke to wrestlers.

On the issue, embattled WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said the charges against him were already being probed by the Delhi Police. He added that the decision to throw their medals into Ganga was purely a stand taken by them.

“The matter is under investigation by the Delhi Police. If there’s any truth to the charges (levelled against him by the wrestlers), an arrest will be made," he added. "Today, they went to Haridwar to immerse their medals in the Ganga. But later, they handed them to Tikait. It’s their stand, what can we do?" Brij Bhushan added.

The wrestlers later issued a five-day ultimatum to the authorities to act against the WFI chief.


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