Wrestlers’ protest: These athletes have returned their medals, awards after Sanjay Singh became WFI president

Some of India’s elite wrestlers have been taking a stance against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, former president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). They have been consistently raising their voices against Singh, who is accused of sexual abuse. 

Now, some of these wrestlers have decided to return their awards in a stand against the recent developments at the WFI. Their actions are a direct response to the election of Sanjay Singh, seen as an ally of Singh, as WFI president.

Sakshi Malik

Sakshi Malik, also spelt as Sakshee Malikkh, is a pioneer in the protest. The Rio Olympics bronze medallist declared that she was quitting wrestling as a protest. The Union Sports Ministry has suspended the new WFI management along with all its office-bearers, including Sanjay Singh. However, it is unclear if it has affected Sakshi’s decision.

Bajrang Punia

Celebrated wrestler Bajrang Punia has returned his Padma Shri. It is the fourth-highest civilian award in the country and is awarded only to those who bring immense pride to the country. After the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist placed his award on the footpath, a policeman picked it up.

“We trust only in God. I returned my Padma Shri award for my sisters and daughters; I returned it for their honour and I do not want any honour until they get justice. Jai Hind,” tweeted Bajrang.

Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat also chose to return her Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Award. “When we won medals for the country, the whole country called us their pride. Now, when we raise our voices for justice, we are being called traitors. Prime Minister sir, I want to ask you, are we traitors?” Phogat wrote an open letter to PM Narendra Modi in an open letter posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Virender Singh Yadav

Virender Singh Yadav joined this movement. The Deaflympics gold medallist, too, announced his decision to return his Padma Shri. The action by the athlete, better known as Goonga Pehlwan, is a show of solidarity with fellow wrestlers who are opposing the election of Sanjay Singh as the president of WFI.

(With agency inputs)

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Published: 27 Dec 2023, 12:38 PM IST

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