UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest can jeopardise the wrestling career of youngsters

The UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest can jeopardise the wrestlers' careers who aspire to take part in international competitions.

UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest can jeopardise the wrestling career of youngsters

Photo credit: Bajrang Punia/Facebook

The future of India’s wrestlers now appears uncertain after the international governing body of amateur wrestling — United World Wrestling (UWW) — has thrown its weight behind the protesting wrestlers demanding the arrest of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) member of the Parliament (MP) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest will have a significant impact on the prospect of the young wrestlers who aim to participate in major international contests, including the Olympics.

On Tuesday, May 30th, when the protesting wrestlers went to Haridwar in Uttarakhand to throw their medals in the Ganges, the UWW issued a statement condemning their arrest and detention by the Delhi Police on Sunday, when they were marching to the new Parliament building inaugurated on that day by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Their protest site at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar has also been cleared by the police.

“UWW firmly condemns the treatment and detention of the wrestlers. It expresses its disappointment over the lack of results of the investigations so far. UWW urges the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations”, the statement said.

Although the Indian Opposition, including the Indian National Congress (INC) and the left-wing parties, condemned the brutal police action during the wrestlers’ march, the UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest has serious implications for the sports, as it may disallow an official Indian team in the major contests, which can destroy the careers and aspirations of many youngsters in northern India who are involved in the sport.

Several women wrestlers have accused Singh, the former head of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), of sexual harassment. Although the BJP-led Union government has promised justice to the victims, it has shown reluctance in taking strong actions against Singh. The Delhi Police has not detained him, which has prolonged the wrestlers’ protest.

Taking into view the situation, the UWW stated that it will seek a report from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the ad-hoc committee of the WFI regarding the elective general assembly for a new wrestling committee. The UWW said it had allowed a 45-day deadline for the IOA and the WFI. If these bodies don’t act within this period, then the WFI may be suspended from the UWW and then, Indian wrestlers won’t be allowed to compete in the major tournaments under the Indian flag.

“Finally, UWW will request further information about the next elective general assembly from the IOA and the Ad-hoc Committee of the WFI. The 45-day deadline that was initially set to hold this elective assembly shall be respected. Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag. It is reminded that UWW already took a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year”, the organisation said.

While most wrestlers, who come from rural areas, use their skills to enter the international arena, the UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest can jeopardise their prospects. However, it seems that the Modi government has more responsibilities here than the UWW, as it can conduct a fair probe into the allegations and arrest Singh for interrogation and trial under the relevant charges, including those under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Still, the government remains indifferent to the demands raised by the wrestlers, many of whom had been vocal BJP supporters in the past.

Meanwhile, Singh is going to organise a rally in Ayodhya, in the presence of Hindu seers, to protest what he calls a “political conspiracy” to malign him. The seers will also protest against the POCSO Act, which the previous government had enacted to prosecute those who are accused of sexual offences against minors.

Now, it’s to be seen whether the government will change its hard-line approach after the UWW’s stand on the Indian wrestlers’ protest to ensure that the young wrestlers don’t miss a chance to compete in international competitions, or whether it will continue to shield the strongman whose support is crucial to win the 2024 general elections in parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

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