United World Wrestling (UWW) has strongly condemned the detention of India’s top wrestlers during their recent protest at Jantar Mantar. The international governing body has threatened to suspend the national federation, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), if it fails to hold its election within the designated timeframe.
UWW has been closely monitoring the situation in India, where wrestlers have been protesting against the outgoing president of WFI, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, for allegedly sexually harassing several women. In a statement, UWW expressed concern and noted that Singh had been removed from his position and is currently not in charge.
During the protest, disturbing scenes unfolded as police intervened and forcibly detained Olympic and world championships medallists, including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sangeeta Phogat. The wrestlers and their supporters breached the security cordon while marching towards the new Parliament building, where they had planned a women’s ‘Mahapanchayat.’
The wrestlers are demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment, including the harassment of a minor. They had chosen the time of the women’s ‘Mahapanchayat’ to coincide with the inauguration of the new Parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
UWW strongly condemned the treatment and detention of the wrestlers and expressed disappointment over the lack of progress in the investigations. The organization called for a thorough and impartial inquiry into the allegations. It stated that it would meet with the wrestlers to assess their well-being and reaffirm its support for a fair resolution of their concerns.
The Indian Sports Ministry had directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to form an ad-hoc committee to conduct elections for the Executive Committee of WFI within 45 days. While a two-member ad-hoc committee was formed on April 27 to manage WFI’s day-to-day affairs and oversee the elections, the federation now has only 12 days left to hold the polls.
UWW has warned that if the elective general assembly is not conducted on time, it will consider suspending the national federation. It further stated that it would seek additional information about the upcoming assembly from the IOA and the ad-hoc committee and expects the 45-day deadline to be honored. Failure to comply may result in athletes competing under a neutral flag. UWW has previously taken measures, such as relocating the Asian Championship initially planned to be held in New Delhi earlier this year.