Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik Issue Fresh Warning Over Wrestling Federation Leadership

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Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik Issue Fresh Warning Over Wrestling Federation Leadership

| Updated: February 15, 2024 20:13

Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik Issue Fresh Warning

India’s ace wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have issued a fresh warning to restart their protest in response to the appointment of Karan Bhushan Singh, son of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as the president of the Uttar Pradesh Wrestling Association.

Both Olympic medalists have expressed discontent over the reinstatement of Sanjay Singh, a close associate of Brij Bhushan and the BJP MP from Kaiserganj, as the WFI president. This decision followed the United World Wrestling’s (UWW) move to lift the federation’s suspension on Tuesday.

The UWW lifted the provisional suspension on India but instructed the national federation to provide written assurances that there would be no discriminatory measures taken against the protesting trio of Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat. The suspension was imposed by the UWW in August of the previous year due to the Wrestling Federation of India’s failure to conduct elections within the stipulated timeframe.

The wrestlers are concerned about decision-making being vested in individuals loyal to Brij Bhushan at both the state and WFI levels. This concern has prompted them to threaten to revive their protests on social media. Karan previously held the position of vice president of UP wrestling.

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Punia, in a video on Instagram, voiced his concerns, “Just 2-3 days back, Brij Bhushan’s son became the president of the UP wrestling body despite him saying no one from his family will come into wrestling administration. The government had promised that Brij Bhushan or his relatives or associates will not govern the sport.”

Brij Bhushan, 66, is accused of sexual harassment by six women wrestlers. The BJP leader has held the position of WFI chief since 2012. Prominent wrestlers such as Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya have vocally criticised the ‘dictatorial’ leadership style of the six-time parliamentarian.

Malik said in a video post that if Brij Bhushan’s aides were allowed to run WFI, she would hit the streets again. She said, “We came to know yesterday that Sanjay Singh has done some setting with the UWW and got the suspension lifted. I have retired from wrestling but I won’t allow Brij Bhushan and his people to run the federation and also trouble women wrestlers.”

For over a year, Punia, Malik, and Phogat have been engaged in protests, advocating for the apprehension of Brij Bhushan on allegations of sexually harassing female wrestlers. The protests ceased following a meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, during which the government guaranteed that no member of Brij Bhushan’s family would participate in the WFI elections. However, three days after the WFI elections on December 21, the Sports Ministry suspended the newly-elected committee of the governing body. This action was prompted by the behaviour of Brij Bhushan immediately after the announcement of the election results.

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