Wrestler Vinesh Phogat Writes To PM Modi, Will Return National Awards

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Wrestler Vinesh Phogat Writes To PM Modi, Will Return National Awards

Ms Phogat said she does not want the awards to become a “burden on the path of living with dignity”.

New Delhi:

Less than a week after Sakshee Malikkh announced her retirement from wrestling and Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri, Vinesh Phogat, the third top wrestler who was part of the protests against former Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has announced that she will return her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards.

Brij Bhushan, a BJP MP, had been accused of sexual harassment by many women wrestlers and Ms Malikkh, Mr Punia and Ms Phogat had been at the forefront of the protests against him.

The wrestlers’ decisions have been taken in quick succession in a span of six days since a panel led by Sanjay Singh, a close aide of Brij Bhushan, won the elections to the Wrestling Federation of India by a landslide on Thursday, indicating a continuity of leadership in the body. The panel was suspended by the sports ministry on Sunday.

In an emotional open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, Ms Phogat, who has won gold medals at both the Commonwealth and Asian Games, asked whether women wrestlers were made only to grace government advertisements and said she is returning the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards so that they don’t become a “burden on the path of living with dignity”.

She has also said that the wrestlers were considered the country’s pride when they won medals, but are now being labelled traitors because they demanded justice.

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