Vinesh Phogat returns Khel Ratna, Arjuna Awards, places them on footpath near PMO
NEW DELHI — Olympian wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Saturday returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards given as a protest against the government’s role in the entire Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) saga.
Vinesh had announced three days back that she would return her awards after Sanjay Singh, a close aide of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was elected as president. The top wrestlers had asked the Sports Ministry to not allow Sanjay Singh to participate in the elections as it would mean a continuation of Brij Bhushan’s hegemony in WFI.
On Saturday, Vinesh tried to reach the Prime Minister’s Office to return the awards but was prevented by security officials from reaching there.
Eventually, she placed her Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award on the footpath near the PMO office, bust like Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia had done with his Padma Shri award.
Vinesh reached the venue with a posse of media persons following her. She reiterated her reasons for returning the awards.
Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat had on Tuesday announced that she will be returning her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award to the government over its support to former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
In a statement issued on social media on Tuesday after Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik announced she is quitting wrestling and Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri award, Vinesh Phogat became the third high-profile wrestler to decide to relinquish awards given to them by the government.
“I am returning my Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award and the Arjuna Award. Thanks to the powerful people for pushing things to this stage,” Vinesh said in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and posted on X, formerly Twitter.