Wrestler Bajrang Punia Says He Is Returning His Padma Shri To PM Amid Row

New Delhi:

A day after Sakshee Mallikh announced that she was quitting the sport to protest the election of a close aide of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, another top wrestler, Bajrang Punia, said on Friday that he has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will be returning his Padma Shri to him.

Mr Punia was one of the wrestlers who protested against Brij Bhushan, a BJP MP and former chief of the wrestling body, who was accused of sexual harassment by at least 12 women wrestlers. 

After making an announcement on X, the Olympic medal-winning wrestler reached the residence of the Prime Minister at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, on Friday evening and kept the Padma Shri medallion on a footpath there.

‘Spent While Night Crying’

In an emotional letter to PM Modi, Mr Punia pointed to the BJP MP’s remark after the election results on Thursday, when he had said, “dabdaba tha, dabdaba rahega” (our dominance will continue). He said it was this mental pressure that forced Ms Mallikh to quit the sport and that the wrestlers involved in the protest spent the whole night crying. 

“I couldn’t understand where to go, what to do and how to live. The government and the people gave me so much respect. Should I continue to suffocate under the burden of this respect? In the year 2019, I was awarded the Padma Shri. I was also honoured with the Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award. I was very happy when I received these honours. It seemed that life had been successful. But, today, I am much unhappier than I was happy at the time, and these honours are suffocating me,” Mr Punia wrote in Hindi.

“There is only one reason for this: It was wrestling that got me these honours and female wrestlers are now having to quit that very sport for their safety,” he added.

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