Deaflympics gold medallist wrestler Virender Singh Yadav next to give up Padma Shri

Self-styled Goonga Pahalwan follows Sakshi Malik, who quit wrestling, and Bajrang Punia, who left his award outside PM Modi's house, protesting BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's continued influence

Former Deaflympics gold medallist wrestler Virendra Singh Yadav, the self-styled Goonga Pahalwan ('mute strongman') shows off a recent medal earlier in 2023 (photo courtesy @GoongaPahalwan/X)
Former Deaflympics gold medallist wrestler Virendra Singh Yadav, the self-styled Goonga Pahalwan ('mute strongman') shows off a recent medal earlier in 2023 (photo courtesy @GoongaPahalwan/X)


Deaflympics gold medallist Virender Singh Yadav, defiantly self-styled Goonga Pahalwan, is the next wrestler to give up his Padma Shri medal to the government, in solidarity with the country's top wrestlers who have objected to the election of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh as WFI president.

Throwing his weight behind Olympic bronze medallist grappler Sakshi Malik, who announced her retirement from the sport soon after Sanjay Singh's victory in the recent Wrestling Federation of India polls, Yadav said he would return the honour as a mark of protest against the election of Brij Bhushan's close aide.

Bajrang Punia, one of the prominent faces of the protest against the former WFI chief, had returned his Padma Shri on Friday, 22 December as well.

"I will also return the Padma Shri for my sister and the country's daughter. Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, I am proud of your daughter and my sister Sakshi Malikkh," Yadav today wrote on X.

He also urged the country's most iconic sports personalities, such as Sachin Tendulkar and Neeraj Chopra, to speak up. "I would also request the top players of the country to also give their opinion," Yadav said in his post, tagging the cricket legend and Olympic champion javelin thrower.

Yadav himself had received the Padma Shri, the country's fourth highest civilian award, in 2021. Before that, he had been honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2015.

Earlier yesterday, Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia posted on X, sharing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "I am returning my Padma Shri award to the prime minister. This is just my letter to say so. This is my statement," read Punia's post.

On Thursday, 21 December, Sanjay was elected as the president of the WFI after the panel led by him won 13 of the 15 posts.

He is known to be a close associate of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the former president who stands accused by multiple sportswomen of sexual abuse and harrassment. Malik, Punia and Vinesh Phogat had demanded that no close associate of BJP MP Brij Bhushan should enter the WFI.

The three top wrestlers had accused Brij Bhushan of sexually exploiting several women wrestlers. Earlier in the year, at the peak of their public protest, they had even gone to Hardiwar on 30 May to consign their medals to the river Ganga—in the waters that Hindus believe to be holy, where both the dead and offerings to deities are consigned. Farmers' leaders convinced them not to take this extreme step at the time, and reassured them that their fight for justice would continue with the nation's support.

As for Yadav, it was just a month ago that he had been looking forward to new medals in the new year and beyond, in 2025. On 22 November, the wrestler shared a video of himself training with the most low-tech equipment with his forearm in a sling.

Yadav had recently been operated on in October to fix a shoulder injury that plagued him during the last Deaflympics too.

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