Bajrang Punia takes a Stand Amidst WFI Controversy

Bajrang Punia placed his Padma Shri award on the pavement outside the PM’s residence amidst the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election controversy.
Wrestler and Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia on Sunday reiterated his decision ‘not to reclaim’ the Padma Shri award he had returned amidst the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election controversy. He said that reconsidering taking back the award would only happen once he perceives that “justice is served”.
“I will not take back Padma Shri. I will think about it only after justice is delivered,” Punia was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

A day after wrestler Sakshi Malik’s decision to retire in protest to Sanjay Singh’s election as the Wrestling Federation of India chief, Bajrang Punia penned a letter to PM Modi, announcing his decision to return the Padma Shri award. “I am returning my Padmashree award to the Prime Minister. This is just my letter to announce that. This is my statement,” Bajrang Punia tweeted.

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Following his social media announcement, Bajrang Punia proceeded to place his Padma Shri award on the pavement outside the PM’s residence. However, he was halted by police officials at Delhi’s Kartavya Path

Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik, a face of the wrestlers’ protest against former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations, declared her retirement from wrestling on Thursday. This decision came after the election of Sanjay Singh, an ally of Brij Bhushan, as the federation’s president.

Sakshi Malik, visibly upset and overwhelmed, tearfully concluded a press conference in the national capital and emotionally announced her retirement from wrestling as she put her shoes on the table.

Vinesh Phogat, a medalist at the World Championships and Asian Games, echoed profound disappointment, highlighting the ongoing struggle within wrestling and expressing concern about its future.

“There are minimal expectations, but we hope that we get justice. It’s saddening that the future of wrestling is in the dark. To whom shall we convey our grief?… We are still fighting while we are training,” she said.

Earlier this year, a group of top wrestlers spearheaded a significant demonstration, urging the ousting of the former WFI head, Brij Bhushan, citing allegations of sexual harassment involving female wrestlers. The BJP MP resigned from his position and is currently undergoing legal proceedings regarding these accusations.

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The sports ministry suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) following the swift announcement by the newly elected body to arrange the U-15 and U-20 nationals “without allowing wrestlers sufficient preparation time”. This surprising decision came shortly after Olympian Sakshi Malik emotionally declared her retirement, alleging that the government reneged on its promise not to appoint an associate of Bharatiya Janata Party MP and former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as an office-bearer within the federation.

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