Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) WFI

Sena (UBT) Mouthpiece Jabs Centre Over Suspension Of Wrestling Federation

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) WFI

Saamana, the official mouthpiece of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction), on Tuesday took potshots at the Centre over an official release by the Union Ministry for Sports and Youth Affairs, suspending the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

In its latest editorial, Saamana invoked the protests by wrestlers, who came out against former WFI president and BJP leader Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment.

The protests got bigger, eventually prompting Delhi Police to file FIRs and open an investigation against the sitting BJP MP. He was also asked to step away from the day-to-day functioning of the country’s top wrestling body before fresh elections to the federation were announced.

However, in the face of renewed protests by star grapplers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia in light of the WFI polls, claiming that the Centre went back on its word not to elect anyone close to Brij Bhushan as the top office-bearer of the federation, the Union Sports Ministry on Sunday announced the suspension of the top wrestling body.

With the suspension of the sport’s top governing body in the country, key office-bearers of the federation, including newly elected president Sanjay Singh, a known aide of the former WFI chief, were also suspended.

Taking a dig at the Centre, the Saamana editorial welcomed the dawning of better sense and wisdom, though belatedly.

“Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and other wrestlers who have brought glory to the country at the international level have been fighting against the misrule of former federation president and MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for a year and have been raising their voices against the sexual exploitation of our women wrestlers. They resorted to every manner of protest in their relentless pursuit of justice for the victimised wrestlers. However, the government, under the leadership of PM (Narendra) Modi continued to turn a deaf ear to their cries for justice. Last year, a protest by women wrestlers at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar was broken up by the police. The police cracked down on peaceful protesters in the middle of the night and used force to crush their movement for justice,” the editorial read.

“Could the Modi government have allowed the controversy surrounding the national wrestling federation to hurt its prospects in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections? However, the Centre had been paying lip service to the wrestlers and was not sympathetic to their movement and demands. Brij Bhushan continued to have the blessings of the ruling party. However, sensing a grim fallout with the elections around the corner, the Modi government came to a belated realisation and suspended the newly elected president of the wrestling federation, Sanjay Singh. Had there been more time for the general elections, the government would have still been in a state of slumber in the matter,” the editorial read.

However, it added that though the suspension of the WFI marks a major victory for the wrestlers, their struggle must continue and they mustn’t stop fighting for justice.

“The suspension of the National Wrestling Federation along with the new office bearers has brought a measure of relief to the protesting wrestlers but the struggle for the larger cause must continue. The wrestlers and the lovers and followers of the sport mustn’t stop at this. Brij Bhushan, who came under the scanner over his actions, has mellowed down and his influence has reduced as well. This is a good sign for Indian wrestling. However, the suspension of the national wrestling federation is the only first victory in a long struggle,” the editorial read.

The decision to suspend the sport’s premier governing body in the country came close on the heels of newly elected WFI president Sanjay Singh announcing the hosting of the U-15 and U-20 nationals at Nandini Nagar in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh by the end of the year.

Further, the Union Sports Ministry on Sunday instructed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to form an ad-hoc committee to manage and control the affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), as per a source from the ministry.

Earlier, Olympian Sakshi Malik announced her retirement from wrestling at an emotional press briefing, claiming that the Centre went back on its word to not install an aide of Brij Bhushan as an office-bearer of the wrestling federation.

Later, voicing his misgivings over the election of Sanjay Singh as the new WFI chief, fellow Olympian Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri in protest.

The star wrestlers earlier led a protest by wrestlers who came out against Brij Bhushan, accusing him of sexual harassment. (ANI)

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