Sakshi Malik alleges threats from Brij Bhushan Singh’s supporters after WFI suspension

Wrestler Sakshi Malik

New Delhi: The Indian wrestling world is in a state of turmoil after the Union Sports Ministry suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Sunday, following the protests by star wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia. The wrestlers had objected to the election of Sanjay Singh, a close aide of the deposed WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as the new chief of the federation. Brij Bhushan Singh, a BJP MP, has been accused of sexually harassing female wrestlers and is facing criminal charges.

Sakshi Malik, who won the bronze medal for India in the 58 kg freestyle category at the 2016 Rio Olympics, held a press conference at her home on Wednesday and alleged that she and her family were receiving threats from Brij Bhushan Singh’s supporters. She said that they were calling her and accusing her of taking away the rights of children and spoiling their future. She also said that she had retired from wrestling and wanted the girls coming after her to fulfill her dream. “I don’t want any child or girl to suffer any harm because of us,” she said.

She welcomed the government’s decision to suspend the WFI and its office-bearers, saying that it was a step towards the betterment and safety of women wrestlers. She also demanded that a woman be appointed as the president of the WFI, as that would prevent female wrestlers from being harassed. “But there was no participation of women in the elections. Not a single woman was given a position,” she lamented.

Sakshi Malik was among the wrestlers who staged a massive protest against Brij Bhushan Singh at Jantar Mantar last year. Other prominent names who joined the agitation were Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Geeta Phogat, and Babita Kumari. They had alleged that Brij Bhushan Singh had sexually exploited female wrestlers and misused his power and influence. They had also claimed that he had favored his business partner and friend Sanjay Singh in the WFI elections, which were held in December 2023 after a long delay. The Sports Ministry had dismissed the WFI, saying that the elections were not conducted fairly and transparently.

sakshi malik

Brij Bhushan Singh, who is a six-term MP from Kaiserganj constituency in Uttar Pradesh, has denied the allegations and said that they were politically motivated. He has also filed a defamation case against Sakshi Malik and other wrestlers. He is currently out on bail after being charged with stalking, harassment, intimidation, and making sexually colored remarks by the Delhi Police in June 2023. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the way the wrestlers were treated by the police and called for an impartial inquiry into their complaints.