Sports Ministry suspends WFI chief Sanjay Singh after Sakshi Mallik quits wrestling

| Updated: 24 December, 2023 1:13 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs suspended the newly elected body of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), nullifying Sanjay Singh’s presidency, on Sunday.

The ministry took this decision after molestation accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s close aide, Sanjay, announced Gonda as the choice of destination for the U-15 and U-20 nationals. The Uttar Pradesh district happens to be the stronghold of the former WFI chief and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP.

This development also arrives on the heels of Olympian wrestler, Sakshi Mallik’s ultimatum of retiring if Sanjay remains the chief. Recently, Tokyo Olympics 2020 bronze medallist, Bajrang Punia, also returned his Padma Shri in protest against the elected President.

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On Thursday, Sanjay was elected as the new President of WFI, defeating national champion Anita Sheoran in the WFI elections by a margin of 40–7. Rio Olympic bronze medallist Malik then announced her retirement from wrestling, stating, “I will quit wrestling if Sanjay continues to be in power.”

Last January, wrestlers took to the streets against Brij Bhushan under accusations of molesting and harassing female athletes. On Friday, Punia had announced on social media that he would be returning his award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in protest. The wrestler made his way to the PM’s official residence but was stopped by the Delhi Police, whereupon he decided to leave his Padma on the footpath.

“In April, we decided to retake the streets in hopes that the Delhi police would at least register a formal complaint against him. January saw 19 complainants; by April, that number dropped to seven. This indicates that the other 12 wrestlers were compelled to end their protests by Brij Bhushan using his power,” said Punia.

During the course of the protest, the wrestlers had demanded the resignation of the former WFI chief and also, the dissolution of the federation.

The WFI had announced elections on May 7 after the Oversight Committee report was submitted to the Sports Ministry. However, the report was not made public.

Brij Bhushan, now ineligible to contest for the top post under the Sports Code, had illustrated that he would not contest in the elections upon completing three four-year terms as the chief.

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