Olympic medalist boxer Vijender Singh on Saturday said that he would return the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sporting honour, if the Centre does not repeal the contentious agricultural laws, reported NDTV.
Singh, who is from Haryana, was addressing a gathering at the state’s border with Delhi at Singhu where hundreds of thousands of farmers have hunkered down, as they protest against the new farm laws. “If the government doesn’t withdraw the black laws, I will return my Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award,” Singh told them.
On Friday, boxers Kaur Singh, Jaipal Singh and Gurbax Singh Sandhu also said they would return their awards if the Centre does not pay heed to the farmers’ demands for a complete repeal of the new laws.
Several other eminent personalities have given similar ultimatums. On December 1, a group of top sportspersons and coaches from Punjab said they will return all their medals and awards and lay siege to Delhi in solidarity with the state’s farmers
“We are the children of farmers and they have been holding peaceful agitation for the past several months,” Olympic hockey player and Arjuna awardee Sajjan Singh Cheema had said. “Not even a single incident of violence took place. But water cannons and teargas shells were used against them when they were going to Delhi. If the turbans of our elders and brothers are tossed, then what will we do with our awards and honour? We do not want such awards and that is why we are returning the same.”
Wrestler and Padma Shri awardee Kartar Singh, Olympic gold medallist hockey player Gurmail Singh, who is also an Arjuna awardee, and former Indian hockey captain Rajbir Kaur also extended their support to the farmers.
On December 3, former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal returned his Padma Vibhushan award – the second highest civilian honour of the country – to protest the “betrayal of farmers” by the Narendra Modi government. “I feel so poor that I do not have much else to sacrifice to express solidarity with the farmers’ cause,” the 92-year-old had said.
The former president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, which broke off its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party in September over the Centre’s agricultural laws, said that there was no point in holding on to the award if the farmers were “dishonoured”.
‘Don’t take advantage of situation’: BJP’s Sunny Deol
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and actor Sunny Deol on Sunday claimed the central government had the best interests of farmers in mind, and asked others to not take advantage of the situation by creating problems.
“I request the whole world that it is a matter between our farmers and the government,” he wrote on Twitter. “Do not come between them, because both will find a way after discussions. I know that many people want to take advantage of the situation and are creating problems. They are not thinking of farmers. They may have their own agenda.”
The actor also distanced himself from actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, who had campaigned for him in the 2019 elections and recently joined the farmers’ protests. Sidhu, however, was later barred by farmers from joining their agitation over allegations that he was backing the separatist movement for Khalistan, a separate state for Sikhs.
“Deep Sidhu, who was with me during the election has not been with me for a long time and whatever he is speaking, he is saying on his own,” Deol said. “I am in no way related to his activities. I stand with my party and farmers and will always be with farmers. Our government always thinks of the betterment of farmers and I am sure that the government will ensure the right outcome after holding talks with farmers.”