International wrestling body UWW release statement in support of Indian wrestlers

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The United World Wrestling (UWW) released a statement on Tuesday, May 30, condemning the treatment meted to the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar on 28 May. The United World Wrestling, which is the international governing body for amateur wrestling, in their statement said it has been following the situation in India wherein the wrestlers have been protesting from more than a month, over allegations of abuse and harassment by WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh with ‘great concern’.

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“The events of these last days are even more worrying that the wrestlers were arrested and temporarily detained by the police for initiating a march of protest,” said the statement.

The protestors, some of them leading Indian wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, were arrested and detained, during the protest march towards the new parliament building. The protestors are demanding arrest of Brij Bhushan for sexually harassing seven women athletes, including a minor. They have also accused the government of protecting Brij Bhushan as he belongs to the ruling party BJP.

The UWW has in its statement urged the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations. And said it will also be having a meeting with the wrestlers to inquire about their condition and safety and “reconfirm our support for a fair and just resolution of their concerns.”

“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,” read the statement of the international wrestling body.

This is the second statement from the world body about the wrestlers protests in India, after the initial one that moved the Asian Championship away from India.

Last month, UWW president Nenad Lalovic had written to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) demanding clarity on who is running the sport in the country and marked a copy to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha and International Olympic Committee (IOC) official J Poivey. In its response, the WFI complained of “government interference” in their matters.

The wrestlers, disappointed by the inaction of the Government had decided to throw their medals in the river Ganga and sit on an infinite hunger strike at India Gate, New Delhi but were dissuaded by the farmers union leader Naresh Tikait.

The protest is being led by two women wrestlers — Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik and world championships medallist Vinesh Phogat supported by Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia, who is male wrestler.