Wrestler Vinesh Phogat to return Arjuna award in protest, writes to PM Modi

In a letter to the prime minister on Tuesday, Vinesh Phogat said that she will return her Arjuna Award and her Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the two highest sporting honors granted in India. Vinesh stated on her social media platforms that this act is a protest against the problems that Indian wrestling is facing. This occurs just days after another champion wrestler, Bajrang Punia, returned his Padma Shri at the PM’s residence’s gates along with a note written to the PM.

“Had dreamt of winning an Olympic medal, but that dream is fading now,” Vinesh stated in her letter. I simply hope that the aspirations of the future generation of female athletes are realized.” She said that she was “feeling disgusted” about her prizes and claimed that although she had imagined getting them, the fact is that she is now “feeling disgusted” by them. She stated that “every woman wants to live life with respect.”

The letter she shared can be read in its entirety here:

“Bajrang Punia has returned his Padma Shri, while Sakshi Malik has stepped down from wrestling. Since you are the nation’s leader and everyone knows why the athletes who won medals at the Olympics were made to do all of this, this issue must have also reached you. Prime Minister, let me introduce myself. My name is Vinesh Phogat, and I am writing to you as your daughter to let you know how I have been feeling for the past year.

When Sakshi Malik won an Olympic medal in 2016, your government named her the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign’s brand ambassador. When this was revealed, all of the country’s female athletes cheered and congratulated one another.

My thoughts have returned to 2016 since Sakshi’s departure from wrestling. Are we just supposed to appear in government commercials as female athletes? We have no problems to the publication of those advertisements because it appears, based on the slogans in them, that your administration desires to work for the upliftment of girls. I had hoped to win an Olympic medal, but that dream is quickly fading. I can only hope that the aspiring female athletes’ dreams come true.

However, our lives are nothing like those elegant ads. One must have realized how stifled we are by the experiences the women wrestlers have had over the past few years. It must have gotten old, those beautiful flex boards from your ads, and Sakshi has retired as well.

Along with announcing his supremacy, the exploiter has also raised extremely vulgar chants. Give that man’s statements in the media five minutes of your time, and you’ll learn about all he has done. He hasn’t given us female players the slightest chance to be embarrassed. The fact that it has compelled numerous female wrestlers to back off is more concerning. This is really unsettling.

I’ve made numerous attempts to move past this experience, but it’s not always simple. Sir, I had said this to you as well when we first met. For the past year, we have been dragging ourselves around the streets in search of justice. We have no one looking out for us.

We value these medals more than our life, sir, even though it is stated that they are worth Rs 15. The entire nation was pleased when we took home medals for the nation. We are now being called traitors when we speak up for justice. Are we betraying our country, Prime Minister?

I’m not sure in what circumstances Bajrang would have chosen to give back his Padma Shri. But after looking at that picture of his, I feel like I’m choking inside. Since then, I’ve also begun to feel dissatisfied with my awards. My mother gave out candy to the neighbors after I got these honors and informed my aunts that I was on TV and they ought to watch it. She complimented them on how gorgeous her daughter looked when accepting the prize.

Often, I worry about what my aunts would say to my mother when they watch our situation on TV. In India, no mother would wish for her daughter to be in this state. I now want to erase the picture of Vinesh accepting the prize since it was a dream and our current situation is reality.

The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna award that I received are meaningless in my life right now. Every woman aspires to lead a dignified life.

As a result, Prime Minister Sir, I would like to give you back my Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjun Award so that these honors won’t stand in the way of our efforts to live honorably.

A house daughter of yours,

Vinesh Phogat.