India suspends newly-elected wrestling federation

It comes days after the new president was elected to replace his close ally Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who was charged with sexually harassing women wrestlers

By AFP

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Photo: BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh with president of the Wrestling Federation of India Sanjay Singh at his residence, in New Delhi. PTI
Photo: BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh with president of the Wrestling Federation of India Sanjay Singh at his residence, in New Delhi. PTI

Published: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 1:38 PM

India's sports ministry said Sunday it had suspended the newly elected governing body of the scandal-hit wrestling federation, accusing it of ignoring rules by hastily announcing championships.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has "been instructed to suspend all its activities until further orders," the ministry said in a statement.

It comes just days after new WFI president Sanjay Singh was elected to replace his close ally Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a lawmaker charged with sexually harassing women wrestlers.

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It was hoped the ballot would open the way to ending the federation's suspension by United World Wrestling, the international governing body, but the government's order throws that into doubt.

After his win on Thursday, Sanjay Singh met with the former head and announced that national junior wrestling championships would be held before the year's end.

"The actions smack of complete arbitrariness on the part of the new president," the ministry statement said, adding that the new board "appears to be in complete control of former office bearers".

Many of India's top wrestlers had led a noisy sit-in protest campaign demanding Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's ouster after the allegations came to light in January.

The accused 66-year-old ruling party lawmaker has denied all charges and has claimed he is the victim of a conspiracy to force him out of parliament.

A criminal case against him is ongoing and could see him sentenced to five years in prison if found guilty.

Wrestling is hugely popular in rural northern India, and star athletes saw a wellspring of public support.

The new president defeated Anita Sheoran, who won a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and supported the campaign by athletes against his predecessor. She is also a witness in the case.

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