In a bold move echoing dissent, World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat has decided to return her Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award. The protest is directed towards the recent election of Sanjay Singh, a loyalist of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
Who is Vinesh Phogat?
Vinesh Phogat is an Indian wrestler who has achieved notable success in the sport. Born on August 25, 1994, in Haryana, India, she comes from the famous Phogat wrestling family. Vinesh Phogat competes in the freestyle category and has represented India in various international competitions.
She gained widespread recognition when she won the gold medal in the women’s 50 kg freestyle category at the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Vinesh also qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which took place in Tokyo in 2021, and she has been a prominent figure in Indian women’s wrestling.
Vinesh Phogat’s achievements have contributed to the growing popularity and success of women’s wrestling in India. She continues to be an inspiration for aspiring athletes in the country.
Vinesh Phogat conveyed her decision through a letter posted on her X (formerly Twitter) account, stating, “I am returning my Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award.” This courageous act follows the footsteps of Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Deafylmpics champion Virender Singh Yadav, who recently returned their Padma Shri awards.
The crux of the matter lies in the wrestlers’ demand that no close associate of Brij Bhushan should hold a position in the WFI administration. The recent election saw Sanjay Singh, associated with Brij Bhushan, securing the role of WFI president.
Sports Ministry’s Intervention:
Reacting to the turmoil, the Sports Ministry suspended the newly-elected panel for not adhering to its constitution’s provisions. The government cited the “hasty announcement” of organizing U-15 and U-20 nationals without due procedure as one of the reasons for suspension.
Echoes of Dissent:
Phogat’s decision to return her awards resonates with the sentiments expressed earlier by fellow wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia. The wrestling community’s discontent is palpable, with Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik even contemplating quitting the sport.
In response to the unrest, the Sports Ministry has requested the IOA to constitute an ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the WFI. This intervention aims to address the concerns raised by the athletes and ensure a fair and transparent administration.
Vinesh Phogat’s courageous act adds a new chapter to the ongoing wrestling saga, highlighting the athletes’ determination to uphold integrity and fairness in sports administration. The reverberations of this protest are likely to shape the future discourse surrounding the governance of Indian wrestling.