Sportsperson, primarily from Punjab, including Olympians as well as Padma Shri and Arjuna awardees have said they will return their awards in protest against the use of “force” by the central government to stop farmers from proceeding towards the national capital.
The athletes include Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema, also an Olympian and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday (December 1), they slammed the Centre and Haryana government for using water cannons and teargas against the protesting farmers to stop them from going to Delhi. They said they will head to Delhi and place their awards outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan December 5 and join the farmers in the protest.
Reports said the speakers have threatened to return as many as 150 medals including Padma and Arjuna awards.
“We are the children of farmers and they have been holding peaceful agitation for the last several months. 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 turbans of our elders and brothers are tossed, then what will we do with our awards and honour? We are in support of our farmers. We do not want such awards and that is why we are returning the same,” Cheema said.
Police had used water cannons and teargas to stop the farmers to proceed towards Delhi as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march against the farm laws.
“If farmers do not want such laws, then why is the central government imposing these laws,” asked Kartar Singh, who has retired as Inspector General in the Punjab Police.
He said that former players would also join farmers stir at the Delhi borders on December 5. Singh said they are also trying to contact former players in Haryana for coming out in support of farmers’ agitation.
Cheema said several former players including Kaur and Arjuna awardee (shotput) Balwinder Singh have backed them.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have stayed put at various Delhi border points for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday protesting against the new farm laws, which they fear will dismantle the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.
(With inputs from agencies)