Indian wrestling federation suspended after harassment scandal

The India Wrestling Federation (WFI), whose chief was charged with sexual misconduct, has been suspended by the governing body of world sports.

Singh Bhushan Brij, the President of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), faced weeks of sit-in protests in New Delhi this year, with top wrestlers from India demanding his resignation.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker, who is also 66 years old, has been charged with sexual stalking and harassment and is currently out on bail.

The federation’s leadership, which had scheduled fresh elections for earlier this month but disbanded in the wake of the scandal, was indefinitely postponed at the last moment.

United World Wrestling stated on Thursday that the lack of a regularly elected president and board does not adhere to the UWW regulations and the requirements for membership.

Indian wrestlers will be allowed to compete in the Asian Games next month but not under the Indian flag, the statement added.

Singh, who has been accused of groping female athletes and demanding sexual favors, claims to be a victim of a “conspiracy” in order to force him out of parliament and denies the allegations.

The accusations made against him by seven female wrestlers, including a minor, who had filed police complaints, included acts such as “violating their modesty,” making inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, engaging in unwanted physical contact with sexual intentions, and persistently following them –

Indian wrestler Delhi
Sakshi Malik, in blue, an Indian wrestler who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, is detained by the police during a protest demonstration in May [Altaf Qadri/AP Photo]

Wrestlers and advocates apprehended

He still has four pending criminal cases against him, including charges of illegal payments in connection with the election, attempted murder, and theft. Singh has a criminal record dating back to the 1990s.

Several top wrestlers were charged with disorder and rioting after being arrested during a protest in May. Images of these star athletes being detained by the police went viral on social media, as they tried to march to parliament.

After clashes with law enforcement erupted in front of the legislative body, a number of their advocates were apprehended as well.

Indian wrestlers then pledged to bring the issue to the legal system.

Singh made sure that the accuser did not participate in any future competitions or made the allegations vanish, but Vinesh Phogat, one of the athletes who spearheaded the demonstrations, revealed to Al Jazeera that there have been multiple previous instances of sexual harassment reported against him, a fellow Olympian.

Since achieving independence, India has accumulated 21 medals in individual sports, with wrestlers being responsible for seven of them. The sport of wrestling enjoys immense popularity in the rural regions of northern India.

Anita Sheoran, the wrestler who has won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games, has filed a nomination to replace Singh as the top candidate. She is also a witness in a case of sexual harassment.

However, supporters of Singh, whose family is barred from participating in the elections, were anticipated to emerge victorious in any electoral contest.