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Top Indian wrestler resigns in protest against wrestling body’s new president

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NEW DELHI: A famous Indian female wrestler announced Thursday that she was resigning in protest after the country’s wrestling federation elected a new president backed by her predecessor, who was accused of sexual harassment of female athletes.

Sakshi Malik, who won bronze in the women’s 58kg freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had led protests earlier this year against Brij Bhushan Singh, the former chief of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), in a case that made international headlines. a spotlight on the safety of female athletes in India.

Malik, 31, announced his decision to retire from the sport immediately after the election of Sanjay Singh as the new WFI president.

Brij Bhushan Singh, who is also an MP from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was accused in June of sexually harassing six female wrestlers during his tenure.

He denied all accusations against him. His case is pending before the trial court, BJP leaders said.

“We slept for 40 days on the roads and many people from several parts of the country came to support us,” Malik told a news conference in New Delhi, referring to protests earlier this year.

“If Brij’s business partner and close associate Bhushan Singh is elected president of WFI, I will stop the fight,” she said before leaving the venue with tears in her eyes.

Asked by reporters on Thursday about Malik’s decision to resign, Brij Bhushan Singh said, “I have nothing to do with it.”

In recent months, Singh has actively campaigned for Sanjay Singh to replace him and predicted his victory to the local press. Sanjay Singh was not available for comment on his connection with Brij Bhushan Singh.

Sanjay Singh told local media that he was determined to support wrestlers who had suffered setbacks in recent months. He did not comment on Malik’s decision.

Malik and other wrestlers staged their first protest in January, but called it off that month after Brij Bhushan Singh was stripped of his administrative powers by the sports ministry and the government promised to investigate the complaints.

But athletes resumed their protest in April after the government failed to disclose the findings of a committee investigating the allegations.

United World Wrestling (UWW), the game’s governing body which suspended the WFI after the scandal, was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The WFI missed an August deadline to appoint a new president, forcing Indian wrestlers to compete as neutral athletes at world events.

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