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IOA's decision to take charge of WFI is first step for justice: wrestlers

The protesting wrestlers have termed IOA's decision to take charge of WFI as first step of success in their fight for justice.

IOAs decision to take charge of WFI is first step for justice: wrestlers

Indian wrestlers at Jantar Mantar as they restart their protest (Pritish Raj/TheBridge)



Updated: 15 May 2023 5:30 AM GMT

The protesting wrestlers on Sunday termed the Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) decision to take charge of all the activities of the Wrestling Federation of India as the "first step" in their fight against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the former WFI chief.

The country's top wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat, have been protesting at the Jantar Mantar for the last 22 days demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan for alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers.

The IOA, through its letter on May 12, asked the secretary general of WFI to hand over the official documents including financial instruments to its ad-hoc panel, making it clear the outgoing office bearers shall have no role in the running of the federation.

The WFI said it has no issues obeying the IOA order since they were already cooperating with the authorities.

"This (the dissolution of the current WFI) is the first step in our fight for justice. Our fight has begun in right earnest, it's a victory for us... and we will continue or fight until we get justice," said Bajrang, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist.

Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat rued that not a single ruling party's woman parliamentarian had met the wrestlers "to extend support in our fight for the dignity of women". She said that from Monday onwards the wrestlers will give letters by hand or via e-mail to all women parliamentarians of the ruling party to come and support them.

"When they talk about the safety of women in the country, then we too are their daughters and they should come out and support us," she said. "We are writing an open letter to them (ruling party's women parliamentarians) and our fellow wrestlers will deliver those letters by hand. We will also send letters via e-mail. We feel that our voice, our grievances, have not yet reached them... we feel that after they receive the letters they will come and support us," added Vinesh.

Vinesh also requested the people gathered at Jantar Mantar to visit their respective district headquarters on May 16 and give a memorandum in support of the wrestlers.

"We request the people supporting us to also launch a satyagraha andolan (nonviolent resistance) for just one day for the dignity of women," added Vinesh.

Meanwhile, the IOA's three-member ad-hoc committee has made it clear that the process to elect new WFI office bearers will be completed within the 45-day time frame and that the charge will be handed back to the elected body.

"Once the elections will be held, the administrative powers will go back to the WFI. The newly elected officials will run the show. It's just a temporary move that ad-hoc is managing the affairs of the federation," an official told PTI.

Ad-hoc committee to conduct open selection trials

The ad-hoc committee said it is conducting the national open selection trials at Sonepat from May 17-20 for U-17 and U-23 age groups. The winner of the U-17 trials will represent India at the 2023 U-17 Asian Championships and the 2023 U-17 World Championships.

If the winner cannot participate for whatever reasons, the runner-up in that weight category will represent India. The winner of the U-23 trials will represent the country at the 2023 Asian Championships.

If the winner cannot participate for whatever reasons, the runner-up in that weight category will represent India.

The top four wrestlers emerging from the U-23 trials in their respective weight categories will automatically qualify for the U-23 World Championship trials.

The U-23 World Championship trials will be organized later wherein only the top four wrestlers from the U-23 Asian Championship trials and the top four from the U-20 Asian Championship trials (to be organised later) will qualify to participate in the trials for the 2023 U-23 World Championships

The winner between them will represent India at the U-23 World Championships and other international competitions (if any) in the U-23 weight category. The rankings achieved by wrestlers in the trials for U-17 and U-23 will be valid until December 31.

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