Watch: Wrestler Bajrang Punia Returns His Padma Shri As A Mark Of Protest; Keeps It On The Footpath

Watch: Wrestler Bajrang Punia Returns His Padma Shri As A Mark Of Protest; Keeps It On The Footpath

Wrestler Bajrang Punia decides to return his Padma Shri award to PM Modi over WFI chief's election.

Aakash SinghUpdated: Friday, December 22, 2023, 06:04 PM IST
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Bajrang Punia |

A day after Sakshi Malik decided to retire from professional wrestling due to the appointment of Brij Bhushan Singh's close aide Sanjay Singh as the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Chief, fellow wrestler Bajrang Punia has taken another drastic step. Punia took to his official handle on X, writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his desire to return his Padma Shri award.

A video surfaced on X (formerly Twitter) of Punia keeping his Padma Shri on the footpath outside of PM's residence, having been surrounded by police officials and media personnel. The police officials seemed to be requesting him not to return his award, but the 29-year-old was likely adamant on doing it.

"Our protest site was vandalized" - Bajrang Punia

Punia took to X and recalled the events when they started protesting and how the authorities stopped them from doing it by destroying their site.

"Dear Prime Minister ji, hope your health is well. You must be busy in many work but I am writing this to draw your attention to what is happening to the wrestlers of the country. You must be aware that the women wrestlers of the country started a protest in January this year against Brij Bhushan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment. I too had joined their protest. The protest stopped after the government promised strong action."

"Our protest went on for 40 days. There was much pressure on us during those days. Our protest site was vandalized and we were also not allowed to protest any more. We did not know what to do next so we went to immerse our medals in the Ganga. Then we were stopped by the farmer leaders and coaches."

The Haryana-born wrestler acknowledged government's awards to them since several years, but also admitted that mistreatment of women have left him gutted. Hence, Punia has decided to relinquish it.

"The government has given us a lot. I was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2019. I also received the Arjuna, Khel Ratna award. When I got these awards, I was on cloud nine. But today the sadness weighs more. And the reason is a woman wrestler left the sport because of her security."

"Sports have empowered our women athletes and changed their lives but the situation is such that the women who could have been the brand ambassadors of beti bachao, beti padhao are now leaving the sport. And we, the wrestlers who were ‘awarded’ could not do anything. I can’t live my life as a Padma Shri awardee while our women wrestlers are insulted. Hence I return this award to you," he wrote.

Sanjay, who is also the UP Wrestling Association vice-president, was crowned as the new chief of WFI as panel emerged victorious, winning 13 out of 15 posts in the polls. 2010 CWG Gold medalist Anita Sheron also contested the election, but Singh received 40 votes, with the former receiving only 7. Brij Bhushan reacted to the massive development, hoping to have the wrestling events resume across the country.

Teary-eyed Sakshi Malik desired for a woman WFI chief:

Hours after Sanjay Singh emerged as the winner of the elections, Malik resigned and lamented the lack of woman as WFI's chief. She said during a press conference:

"If the president would be a woman, harassment would not happen. But, there was no participation of women earlier and today you can see the list, not even a single woman was given a position. We had fought with complete strength but this fight will continue. The wrestlers of the new generation have to fight."

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