Olympic medalist Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia on Sunday said that he will not take back his Padma Shri award that he returned to the government until justice is given to his “sisters and daughters” fighting against sexual harassment and their perpetrators.
Bajrang’s tweet comes after a major decision in light of fresh protests by star wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Punia over the election of an aide of deposed Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) former president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as the new president of the wrestling federation.
However, the Union Sports Ministry on Sunday suspended the sport’s premier governing body in the country along with all its office-bearers.
“We trust only in God I returned my Padma Shri award for my sisters and daughters; I returned it for their honor and I do not want any honour until they get justice. Jai Hind,” tweeted Bajrang.
हमें सिर्फ़ भगवान पर भरोसा है
मैंने अपना पद्मश्री सम्मान बहन-बेटियों के लिए वापस किया था, उनके सम्मान के लिए वापस किया था और जब तक उन्हें न्याय नहीं मिल जाता तब तक मुझे कोई सम्मान नहीं चाहिए.
— Bajrang Punia 🇮🇳 (@BajrangPunia) December 24, 2023
The decision came close on the heels of newly elected WFI president Sanjay Singh announcing the hosting of the U-15 and U-20 nationals at Nandini Nagar in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh by the end of the year.
Also, the Union Sports Ministry on Sunday instructed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to form an ad-hoc committee to manage and control the affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), as per a source from the ministry.
Earlier, Olympian Sakshi Malik announced her retirement from wrestling at an emotional press briefing, claiming that the Centre went back on its word to not install an aide of Brij Bhushan as an office-bearer of the wrestling federation.
Later, voicing his misgivings over the election of Sanjay Singh as the new WFI chief, fellow Olympian Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri in protest.
The star wrestlers earlier led a protest by wrestlers who came out against Brij Bhushan, accusing him of sexual harassment.
“This announcement is hasty, without giving sufficient notice to wrestlers who are to take part in the said nationals and without following the provisions of the WFI constitution. As per clause 3 (e) of the preamble of the constitution of the WFI, the object of the WFI, among others, is to arrange the holding of senior, junior and sub junior national championships as per UWW rules at places selected by the Executive Committee,” the Sports Ministry stated in a release on Sunday.
“Such decisions are to be taken by the Executive Committee, before which agendas are required to be placed for consideration. As per Article XI of the WFI constitution under the Heading ‘Notices and Quorum for Meetings’, the minimum notice period for EC meetings is 15 clear days and the quorum is of 1/3rd of representatives. Even for Emergency EC meetings, the minimum notice period is 7 clear days with a quorum requirement of 1/3rd of representatives,” the ministry added.
“Further, in terms of Article X (d) of the Constitution of WFI, it is the Secretary General of WFI, who has been made responsible for carrying out the general business of the Federation, keeping the minutes of the meetings, maintaining all the records of the Federation, and calling the meetings of the General Council and the Executive Committee. It seems the Secretary-General has not been involved in the said meeting of EC, which was held without any notice or quorum,” it stated further.
“The decisions made by the newly elected executive body of the WFI demonstrate a blatant disregard for the established legal and procedural norms, violating both the WFI’s constitutional provisions and the National Sports Development Code. The newly elected body appeared to be in complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard for the Sports Code. The business of the Federation is being run from the premises controlled by former office bearers,” the ministry added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)