Wrestling-Safeguarding India women wrestlers may be key to federation’s return

By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), battling a sexual harassment scandal, may need to safeguard women wrestlers to get its suspension lifted, the game’s global governing body said on Saturday.

The Wrestling Federation of India was suspended by the United World Wrestling (UWW) in August after failing to hold its election on time.

The UWW had asked for a fresh election after the WFI’s then-president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, was charged with sexual harassment and criminal intimidation.

Singh has denied wrongdoing and is out on bail, but the victory of a candidate he backed as his successor in Thursday’s election has triggered fresh protest.

Sakshi Malik, a top woman wrestler quit the game in protest, while male wrestler and fellow Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia returned one of India’s highest civilian awards.

“Conditions to address the concerns about safeguarding could also be requested,” a UWW spokesperson said, when asked about the possibility of lifting the suspension on the WFI.

“We are still gathering feedback from representatives onsite to determine if the conduct of the election was valid and well organised,” the spokesperson said by email.

“Before we can lift the suspension, we need to receive the official information from the national federation and the confirmation by the NOC (National Olympic Committee) and the Ministry of Sports.”

Wrestlers staged a sit-in protest against Singh in New Delhi and had to be talked out of their plans to throw their medals into the River Ganges in May.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by William Mallard)