Bajrang Punia returns Padma Shri award in protest over WFI chief election

New Delhi: A day after Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik hung her boots as a mark of protest against the election of Brij Bhushan’s close aide Sanjay Singh as the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) chief, Bajrang Punia wrote a letter to PM Modi returning his 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.

On Thursday, Brij Bhushan’s loyalist Sanjay Singh was elected the president of the Wrestling Federation of India winning 13 of the 15 posts. Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat addressed a press conference after Singh’s election in which Sakshi announced that she would quit the sport as a mark of protest.

“We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I give up wrestling. From today onwards you will not see me on the mat,” Sakshi said as she kept her boot with tears in her eyes.

Taking to Twitter, Punia wrote, “Dear PM Ji, hope your health is well. You must be busy in many work but I am writing this to draw your attention to the wrestlers of the country. You must be aware that the women wrestlers of the country started a protest in January this year against Brish Bhushan Singh accusing him of sexual harassment. I too joined their protest. The protest stopped after the government promised strong action.”

“But there was no FIR against Brij Bhushan even after three months. We again took to the streets in April so that the police at least file an FIR against him. There were 19 complainants in January but the number came down to 7 by April. This means Brij Bhushan exerted his influence on 12 women wrestlers,” he added.