Another prominent wrestler, Bajrang Punia, stated on Friday that he has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will be returning his Padma Shri to him. Sakshee Mallikh had announced the day before that she was quitting the sport in protest of the election of a close aide of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India. One of the wrestlers who had demonstrated against BJP MP and former wrestling body chairman Brij Bhushan was Mr. Punia. At least twelve female wrestlers had accused Bhushan of sexual harassment.
The Olympic medal-winning wrestler arrived at Kartavya Path on Friday night. Placed the Padma Shri medallion on a walkway after making an announcement on X. Police officers later took it up.
“I do not deserve this honor either, especially when the women wrestlers are not treated with respect,” Mr. Punia declared. Despite our forty days on the road, the government has not delivered on its promises. Our battle is against a single person, not the government. I trust the legal system, but given the current state of affairs, I am unable to maintain my faith in it.”
The Olympian said, “This will not have an impact on my wrestling career. I am preparing for the Paris Olympics.” When asked whether anything will change for him in the wrestling world.
Bajrang Punia “Cried the Entire Night”
On Thursday, gold medallist Anita Sheoran of the Commonwealth Games, supported by the protesting wrestlers, lost handily to Sanjay Singh, a close ally of Brij Bhushan, in the election for the wrestling federation. Mr. Singh received 40 votes, while Ms. Sheoran received just 7.
Mr. Punia referenced Brij Bhushan’s statement following Thursday’s election results, “dabdaba tha, dabdaba rahega” (our supremacy will continue), in an emotional letter addressed to Prime Minister Modi. The Olympian said that Ms. Mallikh’s decision to resign from the sport was the result of mental strain and that the protesting wrestlers sobbed the whole night.
“I struggled to know where to go, what to do, and how to survive. I was treated with such reverence by the populace and the government. Shall I keep breathing down the weight of this deference? In 2019, I received the Padma Shri award. I also received the Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards as a mark of honor. I was overjoyed to be granted these accolades. Life had apparently been successful. But these awards are stifling me, and I am far less pleased now than I was before,” Mr. Punia wrote in Hindi.
“There is just one explanation for this: Wrestling is what earned me these accolades, and female wrestlers are currently being forced to leave the sport entirely for their own safety,” he said.
‘Women Creating Pride in India’
The wrestler said that females’ lives have been much improved by sport and that it was unimaginable for boys and girls to play together in the rural. He said that women are representing India with pride in international sporting venues. And that the bravery of the country’s first generation of sportswomen made this possible.
“Women wrestlers are afraid of the shadow of those who have ruled or will rule in the future. But they have now fully retaken control.” In his letter to the PM, Mr. Punia stated, “It must have reached you, the photo of them with garlands around their necks.”
“The daughters who were supposed to represent ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ as brand ambassadors were forced to quit their sports due to a precarious situation. There was nothing we ‘respectable’ wrestlers could do. My life will never be respectable again because of the insults used against female wrestlers. A life like that would be exhausting. I am giving this ‘honor’ back to you because of this,” the letter stated.