Three-time Commonwealth Games medalist Vineet Phogat said on Tuesday that she is surrendering her Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna medals. The letter was sent to PM Narendra Modi and was uploaded on X (previously Twitter). She has drawn attention to the way that “oppressor” Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has “ridiculed” the female wrestlers who are protesting.
The action was taken a few days after four-time World Championship medallist Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri award, Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik resigned from wrestling, and the sports ministry suspended the newly elected Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for breaking multiple rules.
“I am returning my Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna award. Many thanks to the ‘powerful’ man (taaqatwar) who has driven me into this situation,” Vinesh averred. “I had dreamt of winning a medal at the Olympics, but now that’s becoming blurred. I will just pray that the female athletes get to fulfill their dreams in the future”
Due to the federation’s “blatant disregard for procedural norms” and its “appearance of complete control over former office-bearers,” the sports ministry suspended it on Sunday. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was instructed by the ministry to establish an ad hoc committee to oversee the WFI’s daily operations.
According to Vinesh, the female wrestlers have been through a difficult few years. “Those who have 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 will know. He has called women wrestlers scheming ‘mantharas’, openly accepted that he has made us feel uncomfortable and never spared an opportunity to malign us. It’s scary how he has ensured that we step back”
“I tried forgetting all of what has 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 dearer to us than our lives. When we won, we were called the pride of the country. Now that we raise our voices against injustice, we are being deemed as traitors. I can’t imagine what must have been going through Bajrang’s head when he returned his Padma Shri. I feel ashamed of my awards.”