In a noteworthy turn of events, the United World Wrestling (UWW) has taken the decision to suspend the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) due to its failure to hold elections within the stipulated time frame. As a direct consequence of this suspension, the forthcoming world wrestling championships will witness Indian wrestlers competing without their national flag under the designation of ‘neutral athletes’. The Olympic-qualifying world championships are scheduled to commence on September 16.

The responsibility to conduct the elections was entrusted to an ad-hoc panel led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, with a designated period of 45 days. However, the panel has exceeded this deadline without completing the electoral process. The ad-hoc panel was appointed by the Indian Olympic Association on April 27 of this year. Notably, UWW had issued a warning on April 28, indicating the possibility of suspending the Indian federation if the election deadline was not met.

An inside source from the Indian Olympic Association informed PTI (Press Trust of India) that the UWW conveyed the suspension of WFI to the ad-hoc panel on Wednesday night, citing the organization’s failure to conduct executive committee elections. Gian Singh, a member of the ad-hoc panel, expressed his lack of knowledge regarding the developments and stated that they are no longer involved in decision-making processes. He also noted the absence of communication from Bajwa, indicating a breakdown in the management of the situation.

Despite attempts to reach out, Bajwa remained unavailable for comment, neither responding to calls nor text messages. In a contrasting achievement, the Indian women’s team secured the team title at the recent U-20 World Championship in Amman. This victory marked a significant milestone in Indian wrestling history, surpassing countries like Japan and the USA. The success of the Indian wrestlers hinged on their representation of the nation. However, the scenario is set to change at the senior world championships in Serbia, where they will compete as ‘neutral athletes’, and their achievements will not contribute to India’s records.

It’s worth noting that the wrestlers can still compete under the Indian flag at the Asian Games, set to start on September 23 in Hangzhou. The responsibility for entries lies with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), as opposed to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). In the context of the World Championships, it is the WFI’s responsibility to select and submit the team entries following the trials. The initial election date for WFI was scheduled for May 7. However, the process was invalidated by the Sports Ministry, leading to the installation of an ad-hoc panel by the IOA to oversee wrestling activities in the country.

Subsequent delays plagued the election process due to legal challenges from various state bodies. The Returning Officer initially designated July 11 as the election date, but legal actions led to a series of postponements. The Gauhati High Court was approached, resulting in a stay on the polls. The Supreme Court later intervened, overturning the High Court’s decision and allowing the polls to proceed. Despite setting a new date for August 12, the election process was stayed once again by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, prompted by an application from the Haryana Wrestling Association.

This case is currently pending in the Supreme Court and is expected to be addressed in an upcoming hearing. The suspension of WFI by UWW has significant ramifications for Indian wrestling and its international participation, necessitating careful consideration of the road ahead.

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