National

'Why Was No Single Woman Given Representation In Wrestlers' Federation?'

Sakshi, along with Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who led the protest over the inaction against Brij Bhushan, accused of sexual harassment, expressed their dismay over Sanjay Singh's victory in the WFI election. 

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Sakshi Malik Announce Retirement
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After nearly a year of protest against former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, his loyalist Sanjay Singh became the new chief of the Federation on Thursday. His win was marked by tears and outrage by the country’s top wrestlers with Olympian Sakshi Malik resigning from the sports.

“I quit…,” a teary-eyed Sakhi’s video went viral as she kept her boots on the table during a press conference. “I have fought this battle with all my heart. But if Brij Bhushan or someone associated with him is the president of the Federation, then I quit. You will never see me here after that,” Sakshi said to the media.

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Sakshi, along with Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who led the protest over the inaction against Brij Bhushan, accused of sexual harassment, expressed their dismay over Sanjay Singh's victory in the WFI election. 

“Sakshi was tired. We all have been tired and it was the biggest betrayal the world could do to us,” says Sudesh Malik, Sakshi's mother.

Sudesh’s voice quivers as she looks back at the long-fought battle by the wrestlers that began on January 18 when Sakshi, Vinesh, and Bajrang Punia staged a dharna at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and accused Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment. The wrestlers alleged an environment of “fear and intimidation” in national camps and said even some national coaches acted on Singh’s behalf. Vinesh said she had received death threats from WFI officials close to the president. They called for the dissolution of WFI, the removal of its president, and a probe into the matter.After the initial stages of the protest, a lot unfolded. Over the months, a committee was formed to probe the matter while the court began to hear the cases. Wrestlers were arrested and treated brutally while many gram panchayats across Haryana demanded the arrest of Brij Bhushan.However, nine months later, Singh’s aide Sanjay Singh took over as the new President of WFI with his panel winning 13 of the 15 posts in the elections -- a result that expectedly brought disappointment for all of them, who had aggressively pushed for a change of guard at the federation.“Unless we have a women's representation, the assault on our daughters will never cease. The demand of our protest has largely been to have female representation because only with a change of the guard can young girls and wrestlers feel safe,” says Sudesh Malik.One of the major demands of the wrestlers was the demand for female representation. “If the president is a woman, harassment would not happen. But, there was no participation of women earlier and today you can see the list, not even a single woman was given a position,” the wrestlers stated.In between as the protests progressed, hopes were ignited and reignited with claims of “justice being served”. Every time a flicker of hope was lit, the next moment came with disappointment. In April, a day after a bunch of FIRs was lodged against Brij Bhushan, Singh received a 'hero's welcome' in Uttar Pradesh's Gonda, where he was garlanded with flowers.

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“Nyay milega…nyay milega… (there would be justice). After so much noise, when one fails the women in the country, to do the bare minimum, you cannot stop questioning everything. All those were false hopes. Our hopes have died. It was a Black Day for us. Nyay kabhi mila nehi, milega nehi,” sighs Sakshi’s mother.

When asked whether there would be any further protest against the appointment of Singh, Sudesh quips, “The politics of this country is more complex than you and I would understand. There are no talks of protest yet because there lies no hope.”

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