Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

WFI Elections To Be Held By June 30, Assures Anurag Thakur; Wrestlers Suspend Protest Till June 15

WFI Elections To Be Held By June 30, Assures Anurag Thakur; Wrestlers Suspend Protest Till June 15

After meeting Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday, wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia told reporters that they have also been assured that the FIRs lodged against them will be withdrawn.

Wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia
Wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia PTI

Yesterday's meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur ended on some positive notes after Centre assured them that a chargesheet will be filed against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and elections to the federation will also be conducted by the month-end. 

Following the meeting, the protesting wrestlers agreed to suspend their agitation till June 15.

Three days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah met them and discussed their demands, Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik met Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur yesterday who invited them for a meeting to break the deadlock.

The  protesting wrestlers have been demanding the arrest of Singh, who they have accused of sexually exploiting women wrestlers, including a minor.

What did they say after the meeting?      

After the meeting, which lasted over five hours, Malik and Punia told reporters that they have also been assured that the FIRs lodged against them will be withdrawn.

The protesting wrestlers and many of their supporters were booked for violation of law and order on May 28 when they marched towards the new Parliament building without permission. 

"We were told that the police investigation (in the case against Singh) will be complete by June 15. Till then, we have been asked to wait and suspend the protest," Malik said. 

However, both Malik and Punia asserted that their agitation is not over and they have suspended their protest only till June 15 as requested by the government. 

The marathon meeting between wrestlers and Thakur comes amidst the government's efforts to reach out to the top wrestlers, who have been protesting since April 23. 

What did Anurag Thakur say?

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Thakur said the meeting was held in a "good atmosphere and in a positive manner" and that the government has accepted the demands of the protesting group. 

"In the meeting, it was suggested by the wrestlers that the chargesheet in the case be filed by June 15, the WFI elections be held by June 30 and an Internal Complaints Committee of WFI be formed that should be headed by a woman," Thakur said, adding all these proposals were agreed to unanimously.  

Till the election of WFI, two women coaches will be added to the IOA ad-hoc committee that is running the affairs of the WFI to look into the technical aspects and players will be consulted in running the federation after the elections, he said.

"The wrestlers have also demanded that those players, academies, coaches or akharas against whom there are cases should be withdrawn," he said. 

Thakur also said the wrestlers agreed to discontinue their protest and they will also convey the same to their supporters. 

Asked how many demands the government has accepted, Thakur said: "All these suggestions were agreed by consensus. The government has discussed these issues with an open mind." 

Some other key points   

While the government has promised to complete the election process by June 30, world governing body for the sport UWW had threatened to suspend WFI if the 45-day deadline to conduct elections is not met.

The ad-hoc committee, formed by the IOA on April 27, has time till June 10 to honour the 45-deadline for completing the election process. 

In another key decision, the government also agreed not to allow outgoing WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh, who has completed three terms as president, and his associates to contest elections as per their demand. 

Singh is already not eligible to contest the elections as per the Sports Code, which bars officials from contesting elections after completing 12 years as sports administrators.       

Apart from Punia and Malik, two-time Olympian Vinesh Phogat is at the forefront of the agitation that first began in January this year. However, Phogat skipped the meeting with Thakur. 

Punia, Malik and Phogat had even threatened to immerse their medals into the holy river Ganga in Haridwar if Singh is not put behind bars but did not carry out the threat after the intervention of farmer leaders. 

(With PTI Inputs)


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