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Vinesh Phogat to return Khel Ratna and Arjuna award to Prime Minister following Bajrang Punia

Wrestler says awardsare now meaningless

PTI New Delhi Published 27.12.23, 10:19 AM
Vinesh Phogat during the wrestlers’ agitation earlier in the year

Vinesh Phogat during the wrestlers’ agitation earlier in the year

Star wrestler Vinesh Phogat said on Tuesday that she will return her Khel Ratna and Arjuna award to the Prime Minister, because such honours, according to her, have become meaningless in the current situation where the grapplers are struggling for justice.

Vinesh, the two-time World Championships medallist, announced her decision in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which she posted on X.


“The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards don’t have any meaning in my life now. Every woman in this country wants to lead a dignified life. So PM sir I want to return my Dhyan Chand and Arjuna award to you so that these awards don’t become a burden on us in our endeavour to lead a dignified life,” she wrote.

“I remember in 2016, when Sakshi won the Olympic medal, your government had made her the brand ambassador of ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ campaign. When we got to know about this, this country’s women were happy... Today when Sakshi was forced to leave wrestling, I keep remembering that year. Are we women athletes there only for government ads?”

“In what condition Bajrang (Punia) decided to return his Padma Shri is not known to me. But when I saw his photo, I was suffering from inside. After that, I also started hating my awards,” Vinesh wrote.

Vinesh was conferred with the Khel Ratna, the highest sports honour in India, in 2020, while she received the Arjuna Award in 2016.

Vinesh’s decision comes days after Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Deafylmpics champion Virender Singh Yadav returned their Padma Shri awards despite the government suspending the newly-elected body of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

Sanjay Singh was elected as WFI’s chief last week. He is an associate of Brijbhushan Sharan Singh and the wrestlers did not want anyone close to the BJP MP entering the WFI.

Brijbhushan was accused of sexually harassing several women wrestlers by Vinesh, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik. They had held a lengthy protest at Jantar Mantar early this year.

The sports ministry said it will try to convince the wrestlers to review their decisions. “We will try to convince and request the wrestlers to take back their awards,” said a ministry official.

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