Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


WFI elections: Brazen show of power and arrogance

The very sight of Brij Bhushan, who allegedly sexually exploited women wrestlers, wearing garlands, posing for cameras, and flaunting victory signs, violated all levels of decency.

WFI elections: Brazen show of power and arrogance

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh flaunting victory sign along with newly elected WFI president Sanjay Kumar Singh. 


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 24 Dec 2023 12:21 PM GMT

Wrestling is at the centre of the limelight, again for an undesirable reason. The much-awaited and delayed elections of the federation, banned by United World Wrestling, are over. In the face of it, free and fair elections were held. You cannot raise the validity of the results.

The elections will pave the way for WFI's reaffiliation to the UWW, but does this mean the end of the tussle between strangled wrestlers and the WFI? Will normalcy be restored in Indian wrestling?

Whose sport it is? Is administration for sports, or sports are meant to be ruled by anybody hungry for power?

Wrestlers, who have been protesting since January this year demanding actions against the federation's disgraced former president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over charges of sexual harassment and molestations labelled by women wrestlers, have found themselves unaddressed although it has been a year since they first hit the streets of Delhi seeking justice.

Their complaints, which took months to be processed into FIRs, have still been pending in the court of law. The accused has been granted bail and is moving free, swelling his chest, basking in the glory of the achievement of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

As the same set of people are back in power, with Brij Bhushan successfully getting his proxy at the wheel of the federation, the face of the protest Sakshi Malik quit the sport in tears.

Sakshi Malik in tears as she quit the sport since Brij Bhushan loyalists have been elected to WFI.

Humiliated and perished by the system, the Olympic medallist refused to play the sport that she loves under the shadow of Brij Bhushan. Her fellow wrestler Bajrang Punia, the only Indian to win four World Wrestling Championships medals, left his Padma Shree medallion on the Kartavya Path outside the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The wrestlers have been left helpless in this fracas.

Bajrang's symbolic act was meant to send a message to the power of losing faith and confidence in the nation-state for its utter failure to protect the women, the wrestlers, and the champions of the country.

His action was similar to what Muhammad Ali did by immersing his Olympic gold medal in the water of the Ohio River being disrespected by American whites. Ali was later feted with another gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by the IOC. But such an upright action from a government that failed to protect the country's women athletes should not be anticipated.

Beyond reach

Sanjay Kumar Singh, Brij Bhushan's close aide, has been elected as the new president of the federation. Will he have the capacity to run the federation independently and make the sport a safer place for women wrestlers? India has wrestling talent in abundance. The well-being and future of wrestling will depend on his administrative acumen.

But the sport has remained in the grip of its disgraced former president Brij Bhushan. And the office of WFI has remained at the bungalow of the tainted BJP MP.

The very sight of the accused of sexual harassment being garlanded heavily by people surrounding him, posing for cameras and flaunting victory signs amid bursting firecrackers, whereas Sanjay, the newly elected president, standing next to him like his obedient Mandarin, violated all levels of decency.

Even though WFI is now free from the clasp of Brij Bhushan, the victory of his right-hand man Sanjay Singh, who has been a friend of the BJP MP from Kaiserganj for more than 30 years, makes it clear who is going to have the final shot at every decision about Indian wrestling.

This victory, accompanied by a show of arrogance by Brij Bhushan and his supporters, will dent the confidence of women's wrestlers and might discourage parents from encouraging their daughters to grapple in the mud. 'We dominated; we will continue to dominate' was the message Brij Bhushan, who served his maximum tenure as the president, brazenly showed off.

His disposition to exert influence in decision-making and pull strings from the back may have a far-reaching consequence on Indian wrestling, a medal-winning Olympic sport for India.

The accusations of sexual harassment, molestation, stalking, and intimidation by seven women wrestlers have not yet been addressed despite the sports ministry assuring them of speedy redressal.

No woman in the WFI executive body

What is more glaring in this election is not having a single woman in the executive body. Of the 15 posts, Brij Bhushan’s camp won 13, including the president’s post which Sanjay Singh won 40-7 against Anita Sheoran, the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist and the candidate wrestlers supported, believing that a woman would be, in the present circumstances, more suitable to helm the federation to bring about a change in the governing body.

This election also manifested how tough it is to remove a powerful politician from the ruling party, who despite facing serious charges of molestation, was not subjected to any internal probe by his political party or as a parliamentarian at a time when opposition Member of Parliamentarians have been suspended and expelled for asking mere questions or facing accusation of unparliamentary actions. Brij Bhushan is indeed untouchable; beyond anybody's reach.

PM Modi, who usually takes immense pride in the achievements of women’s athletes and propagates the noble scheme of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, did not utter a single word about the grievances of the women's athletes which shook the conscience of the nation.

In 2016, when Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Rio Olympics, PM Modi termed her victory inspiring, and her feat would encourage younger girl children to pursue sports.

At a time when Sakshi had to hang up her boots in tears, the state stayed mum.

Next Story