'Goonga Pahalwan' Says Will Return Padma Shri In Solidarity With Wrestlers

Wrestler Virender Singh has given support to fellow athlete Sakshee Malikkh, who announced she is quitting the sport after an aide of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh succeeded him in the top post.

'Goonga Pahalwan' Says Will Return Padma Shri In Solidarity With Wrestlers

Wrestler Virender Singh has given support to fellow athlete Sakshee Malikkh, who announced she is quitting the sport after an aide of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh succeeded him in the top post.

Ms Malikkh and other athletes have accused Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment.

"I will also return the Padma Shri for my sister and the country's daughter, Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi  ji, I am proud of your daughter and my sister Sakshee Malikkh... But I would also request the top players of the country to also give their decision," Virender Singh, who identifies himself as the 'Goonga Pahalwan', said in a post on X, tagging Sachin Tendulkar and Neeraj Chopra.

Virender Singh's post comes a day after another top wrestler, Bajrang Punia, on Friday said he has written a letter to PM Modi and will return the Padma Shri given to him.

After making an announcement on X, the Olympic medal-winning wrestler reached central Delhi's Kartavya Path on Friday evening and kept the Padma Shri medallion on a footpath there. It was later picked up by the police.

"When the women wrestlers are not given due respect, I do not deserve this honour either. We were on the road for 40 days, but the promises made by the government have not been fulfilled. Our fight is not against the government, but against an individual. I believe in the judiciary but, with what is happening, I can't keep faith in the system," Mr Punia told reporters on Friday.

Vijender Singh, India's first boxer to win an Olympics medal, also announced his support to Ms Malikkh yesterday. "The parents of the daughters would be concerned that if an Olympic medallist is not given justice, how will we get it? The PM, Vice President, and President all should come and answer why this happened... This raises a lot of questions on the justice system and the democratic structure," Vijender Singh said.

The new WFI boss Sanjay Singh is a longtime aide of Brij Bhushan, who was WFI chief for 12 years. A six-time BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, Brij Bhushan had to step aside after top wrestlers, including Ms Malikkh, accused him of sexually harassing women wrestlers.

Breaking into tears during an interaction with the media two days ago, Commonwealth and Asian Games Gold medallist Vinesh Phogat alleged with Sanjay Singh heading the WFI, women wrestlers will continue to face harassment.

In January this year, three wrestlers led a huge protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, demanding action against Brij Bhushan.

They called off the protest after the government ordered a probe. The wrestlers were also assured that no aide or relative of Brij Bhushan would be allowed to contest the next polls of the wrestling body.

While Brij Bhushan's son Prateek and son-in-law Vishal Singh did not enter the contest, his aide Sanjay Singh's nomination was cleared.