World wrestling body suspends India after harassment scandal
THE Wrestling Federation of India has been suspended by the sports’ world body for not holding elections after its chief was charged with sexual misconduct.
India’s top wrestlers staged weeks of sit-in protests in the capital New Delhi earlier this year demanding the resignation of WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh.
The 66-year-old, also a lawmaker for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has since been charged with sexual harassment and stalking but is currently on bail.
The federation’s leadership was disbanded in the wake of the scandal, with fresh elections scheduled for earlier this month but postponed indefinitely at the last moment.
“The absence of a regularly elected president and a board does not comply with the UWW regulations and the conditions for membership,” United World Wrestling said in its statement late Thursday (24).
Indian wrestlers will be allowed to compete in the Asian Games next month but not under the Indian flag, the statement added.
Singh denies all charges against him and has said he is a victim of a “conspiracy”.
Wrestling is hugely popular in rural northern India.
Images of star athletes being detained by police as they tried to march to parliament in May went viral on social media.
Commonwealth Games gold-medal-winning wrestler Anita Sheoran, a witness in a sexual harassment case, has filed her nomination to replace Singh for the top post.
But backers of Singh, whose family is prohibited from contesting the elections, had been expected to win any fresh election.
Bajrang Punia, one of the wrestlers who led protests against Singh, who won bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is in the squad for the Asian Games starting September 23 in Hangzhou.