Editorial: Relief for wrestlers, step in the right direction

Editorial: Relief for wrestlers, step in the right direction

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, December 25, 2023, 10:10 PM IST
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Protesting wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sakshi Malik. | Twitter

The government’s decision to suspend the recently elected executive committee of the Wrestling Federation of India citing procedural anomalies is a step in the right direction. The election of Sanjay Singh, a proxy of erstwhile WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, saw the wrestlers express their anguish and despair. While a tearful Sakshi Malik announced her retirement, Bajrang Punia after being unable to meet the prime minister left his Padma Shri award on the footpath of Kartavya Path. Perhaps these acts of the despairing wrestlers galvanised the government into action. The wrestlers’ saga has been a long and painful one. A slew of women wrestlers accused Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment and mental torture but though he stepped down as WFI president after a 12-year reign, his writ continued to run large as he brazened it out. His influence in large parts of Uttar Pradesh is indisputable and it is this that prevented the BJP from taking action against him despite the serious charges levelled by the wrestlers.

With the latest farcical WFI election, the wrestlers were clearly pitted against the establishment, forcing the sports ministry to step in. It has directed the Indian Olympic Association to set up an interim panel to run the affairs of the WFI, including the selection of wrestlers for tournaments. In its last brazen decision, the WFI announced that the junior nationals would be held in UP’s Gonda district, Brij Bhushan’s home turf. Fear of alienating Jat voters perhaps outweighed the importance of Brij Bhushan’s UP sway. In the face of mounting public criticism, the government was forced to act but is the setting up of an interim panel only a stopgap measure till the big electoral battle of 2024? It is to be hoped that wholesale changes will be brought about and a true cleansing of the federation will be undertaken.

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