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Wrestling Federation of India membership suspended on world stage

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), India’s governing body for wrestling, has faced suspension from the United World Wrestling (UWW) due to ongoing controversies and prolonged delays in conducting essential elections. As a consequence of this suspension, Indian wrestlers will be unable to compete under the Indian flag in the upcoming World Championships. Instead, they will participate as ‘neutral athletes’ in the Olympic-qualifying World Championships.

Elections Delay and UWW’s Action:

The WFI’s scheduled elections, initially set for June 2023, have been repeatedly postponed due to protests by Indian wrestlers and legal challenges from various state units. This delay prompted the UWW, the global authority for wrestling, to suspend the WFI’s membership. The suspension comes as a result of the federation’s failure to meet the required election timeline.

Consequences for Indian Wrestlers:

With the WFI’s membership suspended, Indian wrestlers are compelled to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ in the upcoming Olympic-qualifying World Championships, commencing on September 16. This is a direct outcome of the ad-hoc panel, led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, failing to organize the elections within the 45-day window. However, Indian athletes will still have the opportunity to compete under the Indian flag at the upcoming Asian Games, starting on September 23, as the entries were submitted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) rather than the WFI.

Nomination and Leadership Contenders:

Amidst the turmoil, nominations for key positions within the WFI’s governing body have emerged. Notable among them is Sanjay Singh from Uttar Pradesh, a close aide to outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Singh filed his candidacy for the position of president. Meanwhile, Darshan Lal of the Chandigarh wrestling body has been nominated for the role of general secretary, and SP Deswal of Uttarakhand is in the running for the treasurer position, representing the Brij Bhushan camp.

Background of Controversies and Suspensions:

The recent suspension marks another chapter in the WFI’s troubled history. The federation had previously faced suspension in both January and May. Top Indian wrestlers protested against the WFI’s functioning and made allegations of sexual harassment against its then-president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. As a result, the day-to-day operations of the WFI are currently under the management of an ad-hoc committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association, headed by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.

It’s noteworthy that the UWW had previously warned the WFI about the possibility of suspension if the elections were not conducted within the stipulated timeframe. Despite these warnings, the elections were further delayed, leading to the current suspension.

Representation and Disqualifications:

Two Indian states, Maharashtra and Tripura, will not have representation in the WFI elections. The Returning Officer deemed both factions from Maharashtra ineligible, while Tripura has remained disaffiliated since 2016.

In conclusion, the Wrestling Federation of India’s failure to conduct timely elections has resulted in its suspension from the United World Wrestling. This suspension has far-reaching consequences for Indian wrestlers, who will compete as ‘neutral athletes’ in the World Championships. The situation underscores the need for stability and transparent governance within sports federations to ensure the welfare of athletes and the sport itself.

Important takeaways for all competitive exams: 

  • Wrestling Federation of India President: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh;
  • Wrestling Federation of India Founded: 27 January 1967;
  • Wrestling Federation of India Headquartered in New Delhi, India.

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