Wrestlers vs WFI: After Sakshee Malikkh’s Exit From Sport, Bajrang Punia Returns Padma Shri

A teary eyed Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshee Malikkh put her wrestling shoes on the table and announced her retirement from the sport as a mark of protest against the victory of Sanjay Singh, who is known to be a close aide of outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri in protest against election of Brij Bhushan aide as WFI Chief

Tears and outrage by the country's top wrestlers marked Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh's win in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election for the post of president on Thursday as Olympian Sakshee Malikkh announced exit from the sport in protest against the same, following which Bajrang Punia returning his Padma Shri.

A day after a teary-eyed Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshee Malikkh put her wrestling shoes on the table and announced her retirement from the sport, Bajrang Punia on Friday kept his Padma Shri outside PM residence as a mark of protest against the victory of Sanjay Singh, who is known to be a close aide of outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who the athletes have accused of sexually exploiting women wrestlers.

Sanjay Singh, became the new President of WFI with his panel winning 13 of the 15 posts in the elections -- a result that expectedly brought disappointment for the top three wrestlers -- Sakshee Malikkh, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia -- who had aggressively pushed for a change of guard at the federation.

Boxer Vijender Singh also spoke on the matter on Friday and said he understood the anguish of Sakshee Malikkh as she quit wrestling because she did not get justice from the government in the sexual harassment case "If this can happen with athletes who have brought medals for the country then what will happen with the common people," Vijender Singh said during a press conference at the Congress office in Delhi.

Latest in Wrestlers vs WFI Row

-Sanjay Singh, A Brij Bhushan Loyalist, Wins WFI Poll: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's close associate Sanjay Singh was on Thursday elected as President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with his panel comfortably winning 13 of the 15 posts in the much-delayed polls - an outcome that sparked outrage among wrestlers who have been protesting against Brij Bhushan for months now accusing him of sexually exploitating women wrestlers.

Sakshee Malikkh Announces Exit From Wrestling, Bajrang Punia Gives Up Padma Shri: Sanjay Singh's election as WFI president met with anger by wrestlers, with Olympics medal winner Sakshee Malikkh announcing retirement from the sport as a mark of protest against the result and Bajrang Punia giving up his Padma Shri. Punia, in a bold statement on Friday, placed his Padma Shri medal on the footpath in front of PM's residence. 

Sakshee Malikkh and Bajrang Punia are among the top wrestlers of the country spearheading the protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who faces allegations of sexually exploiting women athletes, including juniors. The trio of Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Malikkh had launched an agitation against Brij Bhushan in January this year, aggressively pushing for a change of guard in the WFI but a close associate of the BJP MP is now at the helm.

"We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I give up wrestling. From today onwards you will not see me on the mat," a teary-eyed Sakshee Malikkh said and kept her shoes on the table in a dramatic announcement.


Announcing the decision to give up his Padma Shri award, Bajrang Punia on microblogging site X put out an elaborate statement.

Newly-elected WFI Body Scraps all Decisions Taken by Ad-hoc Panel: The newly-elected body of the WFI on Thursday cancelled all the decisions taken by the Bhupender Singh Bajwa-led ad-hoc panel, that had recently changed the Olympic selection criteria and announced hosting of senior National Championship in Jaipur.

A little after winning the WFI polls, 13 of the 15 elected members met at a city hotel in Delhi and reportedly had a discussion on the future course of action. The new Secretary General Prem Chand Lochab and Senior Vice-President Devender Singh Kadian skipped the meeting. Both are from the Anita Sheoran panel that could win only two of the 15 posts.

"The ad-hoc panel had announced that senior nationals will be held in Jaipur in January but this decision has been cancelled. All the decisions taken by the ad-hoc panel have been cancelled," news agency PTI quoted a WFI source as saying.