Indian wrestler and Olympic bronze winner Bajrang Punia, on Friday, December 22, kept the award near the footpath outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence. He had earlier announced that he would return his Padma Shri Award following the appointment of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's aide Sanjay Singh as Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief.
On Friday evening, Bajrang headed toward PM's residence where he was stopped by the Delhi Police outside the Kartavya Path. Punia as a mark of protest kept the Padma Shri Award on the footpath and left the place. “I will give the Padma Shri award to anyone who will take it to PM Modi,” he said to the Delhi Police.
A day after teary-eyed Sakshi Malik announced that she was quitting the sport, Bajrang wrote a letter to PM Modi, expressing his disappointment following WFI polls. Earlier in the day, in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Punia outlined the reasons behind his decision to return the prestigious award.
The wrestling body row, which had been simmering for a while, reached a tipping point for the athlete. Discontent with the management and administration of the sport he loved, Punia felt compelled to take a stand. “We ‘respectable’ wrestlers could not do anything. I will not be able to live my life as ‘respectable’ after insulting women wrestlers. Such a life will torment me all my life. That's why I am returning this ‘honor’ to you,” wrote Bajrang Punia in a letter.
The Sports Ministry on Friday said that Bajrang Punia's decision to return his Padma Shri award in protest against Sanjay Singh's election as Wrestling Federation of India president is a personal one but it will still try to convince him to rethink the move. "It is Bajrang Punia's personal decision to return Padma Shri. The WFI elections were held in a fair and democratic manner," a ministry official told the media. "We will still try to persuade Bajrang to reverse his decision to return Padma Shri," he added.