FPJ Editorial: Wrestling For Legitimacy Amid Political Shenanigans

FPJ Editorial: Wrestling For Legitimacy Amid Political Shenanigans

The grapplers will not be able to compete at the forthcoming World Championships under the Indian flag

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, August 25, 2023, 09:33 PM IST
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The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) suffered a knockout – an expected one – earlier this week when it was suspended by the United World Wrestling (UWW) from membership for not conducting its elections on time. This has terrible implications for India’s professional wrestlers who have been among the medal winners for the country. The grapplers will not be able to compete at the forthcoming World Championships under the Indian flag; the national anthem will also not be played if they reach the podium for medals. They will have to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ at the event, the Olympic qualifier as it were, starting in Serbia on September 16. Their performances and wins will not be counted as India’s.

This is, indeed, a matter of immense disillusionment for the wrestlers themselves and a matter of great shame for the nation. This situation has come around only because the WFI election has been postponed given the controversy over its former president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh who has been accused of sexual harassment by women wrestlers including minors. Wrestlers even went on a public protest in New Delhi earlier this year to press their demand for a thorough probe into the allegations and corrective steps. Singh’s term ended this year. However, Singh, who is also a MP of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been shielded by the powers-that-be, including ministers of the party and the process of bringing him to justice has turned into a political slugfest.

The WFI election was scheduled for May 7 this year but the sports ministry nullified it. The Indian Olympic Association instituted an ad-hoc panel on April 27 to tide over the controversy and put Singh’s man or woman in the chair. However, the UWW had warned the very next day that it may suspend the WFI if the election was not held on schedule. The polls have been postponed twice since then on court orders. This political tug-of-war has now brought India international disgrace and displayed, once again, the perils of political control over sports bodies. The BJP had protested this when it was in the Opposition but has now gone the extra mile to retain political control.

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