Wrestlers' protest: United World Wrestling condemns police action

Wrestlers' protest: United World Wrestling condemns police action
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Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland: Amid the continuing protest by the country's top grapplers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who they have accused of sexual harassment, the United World Wrestling (UWW) on Tuesday issued a statement condemning the detention of the wrestlers during a march to the new Parliament building on Sunday.

UWW has also expressed 'disappointment over the lack of results of the investigations" against the WFI chief and threatened to suspend the federation if WFI elections are not held within 45 days.

"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," the world wrestling body said in a statement.

"UWW will request further information about the next elective general assembly from the 10A 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. It is reminded that UWW already took a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year," it added.

"For several months, United World Wrestling has followed with great concern the situation in India where wrestlers are protesting over allegations of abuse and harassment by the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). It has taken due note that the WFI President has been put aside at an early stage and is currently not in charge," UWW stated further.

"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," it added.

Meanwhile, the protesting wrestlers on Tuesday gathered at Haridwar to immerse their medals in the Ganga, as a mark of protest against WFI chief.

However, they decided to push back their plan to consign their laurels to the waters and issued a five-day ultimatum instead to the Centre to act on their demand following talks with farmer leader Naresh Tikait.

The grapplers were trying to march towards the new Parliament building from their protest site near the Jantar Mantar when they were stopped and detained by Delhi Police personnel.

The wrestlers wanted to hold a 'maha panchayat' in front of the new Parliament in a bid to build support for their cause.

Following the police crackdown, ace grappler Vinesh Phogat, who is spearheading the protest, said, "While we were not allowed to march to the new Parliament and were detained, Brij Bhushan is sitting there."

Earlier, on April 24, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) will form an ad hoc committee to conduct the elections to the Executive Committee of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) within 45 days of its formation, to manage day-to-day affairs of the body, including the selection of athletes and making entries for the participation of players in international events. This committee will be functioning for an interim period till a new Executive Committee takes charge.

After prominent wrestlers came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the WFI chief, earlier this year, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur announced the formation of an oversight committee to probe allegations charges against him and some coaches.

Wrestling Federation of India assistant secretary Vinod Tomar is also named as an accused in the FIR filed in the matter.

The movement has gained traction, with leading Opposition leaders visiting the grapplers at the protest site and voicing support.