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WFI timeline: A look at everything that has happened since Wrestling Federation of India elections

5 months ago 58

 A look at everything that has happened since Wrestling Federation of India elections

Sanjay Singh has been appointed as the new Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief. PTI

Ever since Sanjay Singh, an ally of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was elected the new president of the WFI, the sport has suffered some serious repercussions with top stars either quitting the sport altogether or returning their hard-earned medals and awards.

In January this year, top Indian wrestlers including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik had alleged Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment, and for months, the wrestlers kept protesting against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Kaiserganj.

We now take a look at the timeline of major events since the WFI elections took place on 21 December:

21 December: The much-delayed Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) presidential elections take place. Sanjay Singh, an aide of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, is controversially elected as the new WFI president, beating former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran by a margin of 40-7.

21 December: Soon after Sanjay Singh’s appointment, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik hold a press conference. Sakshi Malik makes a shock announcement that she was quitting wrestling. “If Brij Bhushan Singh’s business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I quit wrestling,” Sakshi said, breaking down in tears while making the announcement.

At the same press conference, Vinesh Phogat says that the future of wrestling is dark. “It’s saddening that the future of wrestling is in the dark. To whom shall we convey our grief? We are still fighting,” she said.

22 December: Bajrang Punia writes to PM Narendra Modi saying that he was returning his Padma Shri award as a mark of protest against Sanjay Singh’s election. En route to PM Modi’s residence, Punia is however stopped by Delhi Police, and leaves the award on Kartavya Path pavement. Sports Ministry later says it was “his personal decision” to return the award. Sports Minister Anurag Thakur refuses to comment on Punia returning his award.

23 December: Following Bajrang’s footsteps, Deaflympics medallist Virender Singh decides to return his Padma Shri award. “I will also return the Padma Shri for my sister and the country’s daughter. Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, I am proud of your daughter and my sister Sakshi Malikkh,” Virender writes on ‘X’.

24 December: The Sports Ministry suspends WFI until further notice. The announcement comes after the newly-elected body makes a “hasty announcement” of conducting U15 and U20 nationals after not giving sufficient time to the wrestlers to prepare.

24 December: Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia welcome the Sports Ministry’s decision to suspend WFI. “It is the first step towards something good happening. I hope the government understands more for what cause we were fighting,” says Malik. Punia, meanwhile, says that he won’t take back the Padma Shri award. “Now that I have returned it, I am not going to take it back. The honour of our sisters and daughters is bigger than any award. All of you have seen what is happening,” he says.

24 December: The Sports Ministry instructs Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to form an ad-hoc panel to run the day-to-day affairs at the federation.

“This requires for immediate and stringent corrective measures to uphold the principles of good governance in sports organizations, and thus, now it becomes incumbent on part of the IOA to to make suitable arrangements for the interim for managing the affairs of WFI so that sportspersons of wrestling discipline do not suffer in any manner and the principle of good governance in the sports body do not get jeopardised,” Tarun Pareek, Under Secretary to the Government of India, writes in a letter addressed to the IOA President and former Olympian PT Usha.

26 December: Vinesh Phogat is the latest wrestler to return her awards. In a letter to PM Narendra Modi that she posted on ‘X’, she writes: “Sir, our medals and awards are being valued at 15 rupees, but these medals are more precious to us than our lives. When we won medals for the country, the whole nation celebrated us with pride. Now, when we raise our voices for justice, we’re being called traitors. Prime Minister, I want to ask you, are we traitors?”.

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