Olympian Vijender says will return Khel Ratna if farmers’ demands not accepted
New Delhi: India’s first Olympic medallist in boxing and Congress leader Vijender Singh on Sunday threatened to return his Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award if the demands of farmers protesting against new agriculture laws are not accepted by the central government.
The 35-year-old from Haryana’s Bhiwani made an appearance at the protest site of the farmers — Delhi’s Singhu border.
“Enough is enough, if the government does not listen to the demands of the farmers, then I have decided that as a show of solidarity, I will return my Khel Ratna,” Vijender told PTI.
“I come from a family of farmers and army men, I can understand their pain and anxiety. It is high time that government pays heed to their demands,” he added.
Vijender had won India’s first Olympic medal in boxing, a bronze, in the 2008 Beijing Games.
In 2009, he also became the first Indian boxer to clinch a world championships medal (a bronze). The same year, he was bestowed the country’s highest sporting honour for his trailblazing achievements.
He currently plies his trade in the professional circuit and had even contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“The award definitely means a lot to me but we also have to take a stand for things we believe in,” he said.
“If the crisis is resolved with talks, then we would all be happy,” he added.
Earlier, former national boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, who was in-charge during the Beijing Olympics, had also talked about returning his Dronacharya award if the demands of the farmers were not addressed.
Vijender and Sandhu joined several former sportspersons in extending their support to the agitating farmers.
Among them are Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have stayed put at various Delhi border points for the past few days, protesting against the new farm laws, which they fear will dismantle the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.
Farmers’ concern is that these laws will eliminate the MSP and mandis that ensure earning. But the government says the MSP system will continue and the new laws will give farmers more options to sell their produce.
The government is holding talks with farmers, who have called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 and threatened to occupy toll plazas.