Vinesh Phogat returns Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award, writes open letter to PM Modi to convey grief

New Delhi: Three-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist Vinesh Phogat on Tuesday announced that she is returning her Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award.
Scribbing an open letter to the Prime Minister via her social media, Vinesh wrote, “I remember the year 2016 when Sakshi Malik had won the Olympic medal and your governement made her the ambassador for the ‘Beti Bachao, beti padhao’ campaign. All of us female athletes were happy and congratulating each other. Now that she has retired from wrestling, are we just meant to be published as government ads?
“I had dreamt of winning an Olympic medal, but now that’s becoming blurred. I’ll just pray that the female athletes in the future get to fulfill their dreams,” she added.
The statement from the 29-year-old comes less than a week after the appointment of the new Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Sanjay Singh, a close aid of the governing body’s former head, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The election was swiftly followed by Sakshi Malik announcing her retirement and Bajrang Punia returning his Padma Shri.
Alongside the two, Vinesh was a central figure in the wrestlers’ protests staged in the national capital earlier this year against the WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who’d been alleged of sexual misconduct and harassment.
“Our lives aren’t as fancy as those advertisments. Female wrestlers have lived the past few years in suffocation. Those who’ve exploited us have managed to ensure that they stay in power as well. If you could spare five minutes of your life to go through what that man has said, you’ll know. He’s called women wrestlers as Manthara, openly accepted that he’s made us feel uncomfortable and never spared an opportunity to malign us. It’s scary how he has ensured that we step back,” Vinesh wrote.
“I tried forgetting all of what’s happened, but it’s not that easy. We dragged ourselves to the streets in search of justice. Our medals and awards are being termed as worth pennies, but they are more dear to us than our lives. When we won, we were called as pride of the country. Now that we raise our voices against injustice, we are being deemed as traitors.
“I can’t imagine what must’ve been going through Bajrang’s head when he returned his Padma Shri. But keeping that photo of his in mind, I feel ashamed of my awards. When I’d won them, my mother had shared sweets to the neighbors. ‘Look, how beautiful my daughter looks while receiving that award,’ she’d say to them. I get scared just thinking what they’d be saying to her now looking at my current state,” Vinesh added.
Earlier on Sunday, only three days after the appointment of the new WFI body, the Union Sports Ministry suspended the newly-elected committee, terming the reason for the action as the conduct of the WFI’s former president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan. In the aftermath, the ministry also wrote to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to appoint an ad-hoc committee to handle the operations of the WFI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.