22 Dec 2023

Wrestler Bajrang Punia Said This In His Letter To PM Modi While Returning Padma Shri Award


New Delhi: Olympic medallist grappler Bajrang Punia on Friday decided to return the Padma Shri award in protest over the election of Sanjay Singh, a Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist, as the president of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

"I am returning my Padmashree award to the Prime Minister," read a post shared by the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist wrestler on X. On Thursday, Sanjay was elected as the president of the WFI. The panel led by Sanjay, a close aide of Brij Bhushan, won 13 of the 15 posts.

Sakshi Malik, Bajrang and Vinesh Phogat addressed a press conference after Sanjay's election in which Sakshi, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, announced that she would quit the sport as a mark of protest.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bajrang wrote: "Dear PM Ji, hope your health is well. You must be busy in many works 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 Brij Bhushan Singh accusing him of sexual harassment. I too joined their protest. The protest stopped after the government promised strong action."

Expressing his disappointment, the star wrestler added, "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 was stopped at the Kartavya Path by Delhi Police officials when he tried to reach the Parliament to meet PM Modi and hand over his letter in protest against Sanjay Singh's election.

"No I don't have any permission. If you can please forward this letter to the PM's because I can't go inside. I am not protesting nor being aggressive," Bajrang said while being stopped by Delhi Police officials.

Sakshi quits wrestling

Earlier, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik on Thursday announced her retirement from the sport, protesting against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh winning the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election for the top job, here.

"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 quit wrestling," said a teary-eyed Sakshi, and kept her shoes on the table in a dramatic announcement.

"We wanted a female president but that did not happen," the 31-yearold, who is also a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, added. Sakshi is the lone Indian woman to have won an Olympic medal in the sport.

Ahead of the elections, Olympic medal-winning grapplers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi had repeatedly requested Sports Minister Anurag Thakur to stop anyone associated with Brij Bhushan from contesting the WFI polls.

Consequently, neither Brij Bhushan's son Prateek nor son-in-law Vishal Singh entered the fray.

Bajrang and Vinesh Phogat, who addressed media after elections, did not say whether they will retire from the sport.

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