wrestler Bajrang Punia

I Am Returning My Padma Shri: Punia Writes To Modi

wrestler Bajrang Punia

India’s ace wrestler Bajrang Punia on Friday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that he is returning his Padma Shri as a mark of protest over the results of the recent Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections where Sanjay Singh, an aide of former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was elected as the president .

Punia shared a detailed post on X, stating, “I am returning my Padma Shri award to the Prime Minister. All I have to say is in this letter; this is my statement.”

“Dear Prime Minister, I hope you are healthy and busy serving the country. Amid your busy schedule, I want to draw your attention to our wrestling. You must be aware that in January this year, women wrestlers in the country made serious allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan Singh, who was in charge of the WFI,” the Olympic medalist expressed.

“When those women wrestlers started their movement in January, I also joined the agitating wrestlers. They returned home when the government told them to take concrete action. However, even after three months, when no FIR was filed against Brij Bhushan, we wrestlers took to the streets again in April. We wanted Delhi Police to take action against Singh and file an FIR, but things did not work out. Hence, we had to go to court and file an FIR,” he added.

Earlier, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, a face of the wrestlers’ protest against Brij Bhushan over sexual harassment allegations, announced on Thursday that she is quitting wrestling. Her decision came within an hour after Sanjay Singh was elected as the new WFI chief, replacing Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

In May this year, a scuffle broke out between ace wrestlers protesting against the WFI chief and Delhi Police at Jantar Mantar. Wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and other top grapplers, alleged that Delhi Police personnel manhandled them when they tried to bring in mattresses after daylong rain.

“In January, the number of complainant women wrestlers was 19, which came down to 7 by April. In these three months, Brij Bhushan Singh left 12 women wrestlers behind in the fight for his position. The movement lasted for 40 days, during which a female wrestler further retreated. We all felt pitiful, our protest venue was destroyed, and we were chased out of Delhi, and our protest was banned. When this happened, we did not understand what to do, so we took our medals,” Punia added further in his post on ‘X.’

“When we went there, our coach and the farmers did not allow us to do so. At the same time, a call came from one of your responsible ministers, and we were told to go back; justice will be done to us. Meanwhile, we also met our Home Minister, and he assured us that he would support them in getting justice for the women wrestlers and will oust Brij Bhushan, his family, and his henchmen from the federation,” he said.

“We accepted their advice and ended our movement on the streets because the government would resolve the wrestling union, and the fight for justice would take place in court. These two things seemed logical to us,” Bajrang further wrote.

Talking about the win of Brij Bhushan-aide Sanjay Singh, the Olympic bronze medalist said under pressure, Sakshi retired from wrestling, and she spent the night crying.

“But in the wrestling association elections held on December 21, Brij Bhushan has once again won. He stated that ‘there is dominance and there will be dominance’,” he said.

“The accused of sexual exploitation of female wrestlers was again openly claiming his dominance over the body that manages wrestling. Under this mental pressure, Sakshi Malik, the only female wrestler to win an Olympic medal, retired from wrestling, and we all spent the night crying. I was not able to understand where to go, what to do, and how to live. The government had given me so much respect. Should I continue to decline under the burden of this respect?” the Olympic bronze medallist questioned further.

Talking about the honours he received, Bajrang wrote, “In 2019, I was awarded Padma Shri, also honoured with Khel Ratna and Arjun Awards. I was very happy when I got this honour. I felt that life had been successful, but today I am more unhappy in it, and respect is eluding me. There is only one reason in order to get respect for wrestling, our fellow women wrestlers have to give up wrestling for their safety.”

“Sports have brought tremendous changes in the lives of our female players. Earlier, in the villages, it could not be imagined that boys and girls would be seen playing together in the rural fields. However, due to the courage of the first-generation female players, this could happen. In every village, you will see girls playing here and going even to the country and abroad to play,” he said.

“But those whose dominance has been established or will remain so, even their shadow scares the women players, and now they have completely taken over again. The daughters who were supposed to become the board ambassadors of ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ were put in such a situation that they had to step back from their sport. These ‘respected’ wrestlers could not do anything. After the women wrestlers were humiliated, they became ‘respected’ and started their careers. Don’t live life; live moth. Such a life will spoil me; that is why I am returning you out of respect,” he concluded. (ANI)

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