Bajrang Punia returns Padma Shri in protest of WFI elections; Sports Ministry tries to persuade him

Bajrang Punia

New Delhi: Indian wrestler and Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019, has returned the prestigious civilian honor to the Prime Minister’s office in protest of the recent elections of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). He expressed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the polls, which saw Sanjay Singh, a close aide of former WFI president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, becoming the new chief of the federation.

Punia said that he was fighting for the rights and dignity of his fellow wrestlers, especially the female ones, who were not given due respect by the WFI. He cited the example of Sakshi Malik, another Olympic medalist, who announced her retirement from wrestling after being denied a chance to compete in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. Punia said that he felt ashamed to keep the Padma Shri, which was given to him for his contribution to the sport when the WFI was not doing justice to the wrestlers.

Bajrang Punia

The Sports Ministry, however, has defended the WFI elections, saying that they were conducted fairly and democratically, as per the guidelines of the National Sports Development Code. The ministry also said that Punia’s decision to return the Padma Shri was a personal one and that they would try to persuade him to reconsider it. The ministry praised Punia for his achievements and said that he was a valuable asset to the country.