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Bajrang Punia decides to return Padma Shri award over WFI election row

Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia has returned his Padma Shri award as a sign of protest against the election of Brij Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh as WFI president.

Bajrang Punia Commonwealth Games 2022

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia react during his bout at an event.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 22 Dec 2023 1:01 PM GMT

Olympic medalist and multiple world championships medalist Bajrang Punia on Friday decided to return the Padma Shri award in protest of the election of Sanjay Singh as the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President.

On Thursday, Sanjay Singh was elected as the president of the WFI after the panel led by the close aide of Brij Bhushan won 13 of the 15 posts.

"I am returning my Padmashree award to the Prime Minister. This is just my letter to say. This is my statement," read a post shared by the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist wrestler on X, formerly Twitter.

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 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 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 PMs because I can't go inside. I am not protesting nor being aggressive," Bajrang said while being stopped by Delhi Police officials.

Earlier on Thursday, 2016 Rio Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik announced her retirement after the WFI elections results were announced.

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