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Wrestler Vinesh Phogat Leaves Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award on Kartavya Path

Wrestler Vinesh Phogat, an Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, followed through on her decision to return her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award by leaving the accolades on Kartavya Path in New Delhi. The athlete, joined by fellow wrestlers in recent protests against sexual harassment allegations within the Wrestling Federation of India, was prevented by the Delhi Police from reaching the Prime Minister’s office.

Background of Protest

Phogat’s decision to return the awards came amid ongoing protests against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, then-president of the Wrestling Federation of India, accused of sexual harassment by several women wrestlers. The athletes, including Phogat, expressed disappointment when a panel led by Singh won the elections, indicating a continuity of leadership. The Sports Ministry later suspended the panel, prompting Phogat, Sakshee Malikkh, and Bajrang Punia to take various actions in protest.

Symbolic Gesture

In a symbolic gesture, Vinesh Phogat left the Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in India, and the Arjuna Award on Kartavya Path, a public area in New Delhi. The move aimed to convey her dissatisfaction with the prevailing situation in the Wrestling Federation of India and her commitment to living with dignity. Bajrang Punia shared a video on social media capturing the moment Phogat placed the awards on the pavement.

Emotional Open Letter

Phogat had earlier penned an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing her disappointment in the treatment of women wrestlers and the leadership within the wrestling body. In the letter, she questioned whether women wrestlers were meant only for government advertisements and returned the awards to avoid them becoming a “burden on the path of living with dignity.” She highlighted Brij Bhushan’s previous admission of making women wrestlers uncomfortable and his alleged humiliation of them.

Ongoing Protests

The wrestlers’ protests and actions, including Phogat’s symbolic return of awards, reflect the broader call for accountability and change within the wrestling community in India. The suspension of the panel led by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and the subsequent constitution of an ad-hoc panel indicate a response from sports authorities to address concerns raised by the athletes.

Vinesh Phogat’s bold move serves as a powerful statement against harassment and a demand for a more inclusive and respectful environment for women athletes in Indian sports.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News

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