United World Wrestling condemns detention of wrestlers, threatens ban if election not in time

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, on Monday, April 24, 2023. PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary

The United World Wrestling on Tuesday released a strongly-worded statement condemning the treatment of India's top wrestlers during their protest at Jantar Mantar and threatened to suspend the national federation if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time.

The world body said it has been keeping an eye on the protest by the wrestlers against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing several women including a minor. On Sunday, they were forcibly detained from the site of protest. "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," the statement read.

"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."

This is the second statement from the world body about the wrestlers protests in India, after the initial one that moved the Asian Championship away from India.

UWW also were firm on the need for election for a new WFI administration, something that is yet to be finalised after almost three months since the sports ministry set up and inquiry committee and a month after the Indian Olympic Association formed a three-member ad-hoc committee to handle the day-to-day affairs of the WFI and conduct its elections within the next 45 days. The committee members are Suma Shirur, Bhupendra Singh Bajwa and a retired High Court judge, who is yet to be named.

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"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. Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag," the statement said.

India's top wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi for over a month now. On May 28, they were forcefully arrested and detained by the Delhi Police.

The wrestlers had called for a 'Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat' around the same time as the inauguration of the new Parliament Building on Sunday and breached the security cordon set up by the police, which resulted in their detention. The women wrestlers were released in the evening, but the Delhi Police has filed an FIR against them and others who participated in the protest.