Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bajrang Punia to return Padma Shri award in protest over WFI chief election

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A day after wrestler Sakshi Malik hung up her boots protesting the election of Brij Bhushan’s close aide Sanjay Singh as the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India, Bajrang Punia wrote a letter to PM Modi returning his Padma Shri award. “I am returning my Padmashree award to the Prime Minister. This is just my letter to announce that. This is my statement,” Bajrang Punia tweeted.

After the X post, Bajrang Punia went to keep his Padma Shri award on the footpath outside the PM’s residence. He was stopped at Delhi’s Kartavya Path by police officials.On Thursday, Brij Bhushan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh was elected the president of the Wrestling Federation of India winning 13 of the 15 posts. Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat addressed a press conference after Sanjay Singh’s election in which Sakshi announced that she would quit the sport as a mark of protest. “We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I give up wrestling. From today onwards you will not see me on the mat,” Sakshi said as she kept her boot with tears in her eyes.”Dear PM Ji, hope your health is well. You must be busy in many work but I am writing this to draw your attention 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 Brish Bhushan Singh accusing him of sexual harassment. I too joined their protest. The protest stopped after the government promised strong action,” Punia wrote.But there was no FIR against Brij Bhushan even after three months. We again took to the streets in April so that the police at least file an FIR against him. There were 19 complainants in January but the number came down to 7 by April. This means Brij Bhushan exerted his influence on 12 women wrestlers,” Bajrang Punia wrote.

“Our protest went on for 40 days. There was much pressure on us during those days…We went to immerse our medals to the Ganga River. Then we were stopped by farmer leaders. At that time a responsible minister from your cabinet called us up and assured us of justice. Meanwhile, we met Union home minister Amit Shah who too promised us of justice. We stopped our protest,” the letter read.

But in the election of the WFI on December 21, the federation came under Brij Bhushan once again. He himself said he would prevail over the federation like he did always. Coming under tremendous pressure, Sakshi Malik announced her retirement from wrestling,” it added.

“We all spent the night in tears. We did not understand what to do, or where to go. 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,” Bajrang wrote.

“Sports have empowered our women athletes, changed their lives. All credit to the first-generation women athletes. The situation is such that the women who could have been the brand ambassadors of beti bachao, beti padhao are now taking back their steps in their sports. And we ‘awarded’ wrestlers could not do anything. I can’t live my life as a Padma Shri awardee while our women wrestlers are insulted. Hence I return my award to you,” Bajran wrote.Bajrang Punia to return Padma Shri award in protest over WFI chief election

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