Future of female wrestlers bleak: Sakshi Mallik retires as Brij Bhushan’s aide becomes WFI Prez

Sanjay Singh, a close aide of the molestation-accused former WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, emerged victorious in the recently-concluded WFI presidential elections, dealing a major blow to the wrestlers who have been advocating for justice and a safe environment within the federation.

NEW DELHI | Updated: 22 December, 2023 9:33 am IST
Wrestler Sakshi Malik announces retirement. (TNI Photo- Sumit Kumar)

NEW DELHI: Olympian and prominent wrestler, Sakshi Mallik, hung her boots from wrestling in protest of Sanjay Singh’s election to the Presidency of Wrestling Federation of India, on Thursday.

“We may not have won, but I thank all of you for the support. We fought courageously and with heart. However, I will not be fighting anymore till the time a close aide of Brij Bhushan is not removed from the position,” Mallik said.
Holding her tears back, the Olympian added that female wrestlers in the country were not safe and their fight would now have to be fought by the next generation of wrestlers.

Similar sentiments were reflected by Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist, Bajrang Punia, who said that the future of wrestling in India looked bleak, without any portal to submit their grievances. “It’s saddening to say this but the future of wrestling in our country is bleak. We will keep fighting but now we do not know who to go to with our plight.
Punia illustrated upon the “power” of Brij Bhushan and how he had allegedly pressurised six of the 20 female wrestlers to retract their statements. “No protesting wrestler is safe now. He had pressurised six of the 20 wrestlers and now he will make sure somebody from our fold gets into a car accident or something much worse,” he said.

According to the wrestlers, they had approached every avenue they could, from Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, to Home Minister Amit Shah yet nothing came off it. They remarked while addressing the media that it was only after a lack of action being taken against the former WFI President, that they took to protesting at Jantar Mantar.
In a symbolic move, Sakshi Malik kept her wrestling boots on the table to announce her retirement. (TNI Photo- Sumit Kumar)
“There will be more sexual abuse under him (Sanjay Singh). No woman is safe under the presidency of Brij Bhushan’s aide,” said prolific wrestler, Vinesh Phogat.
On the other hand, Mallik highlighted that their demands for a female President had fallen to deaf ears. She said, “Our demand was a female President but then we got to hear that no woman was elected to any of the posts.”

Earlier, the wrestlers had demanded for fresh elections where nobody from Brij Bhushan’s fold would be elected. They were supporting Anita Sheoran, national wrestling champion and slated to be the first female WFI President. “We wanted a female president since it would habe reduced sexual abuse,” said the wrestlers.
Presently, the wrestlers remain scared of the former WFI President using his influence to have all of the cases registered against him negated.
Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik hold a press conference post the WFI Prez announcement (TNI Photo- Sumit Kumar)
During the course of the press conference, visuals had emerged on social media from the residence of Brij Bhushan, alongside close aide and now WFI Presient Singh.
Curiously, Bhushan was covered in multiple garlands while Singh sported just one.

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