Former Athletes Stopped from Marching to Rashtrapati Bhavan
The athletes began their march from the Press Club of India but were stopped near Krishi Bhavan by the police.
Led by two-time Asian Games gold-winning former wrestler Kartar Singh, former sportspersons from Punjab on Monday marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan to return "35 national sports awards" in a show of solidarity with the farmers, who are agitating against the new agriculture laws. They were, however, stopped by the police.
Kartar won the Gold medals in the 1978 and 1986 Asian Games.
The athletes reached Delhi on Sunday and began their march from the Press Club of India but were halted near Krishi Bhavan by the police and sent back.
Kartar, who was presented the Arjuna award in 1982 and Padma Shri in 1987, was accompanied by Olympic gold-winning former hockey player Gurmail Singh and former women's hockey captain Rajbir Kaur among others. While Gurmail is a 2014 Dhyanchand awardee, Rajbir was conferred the Arjuna in 1984.
"The farmers have always supported us. We felt bad when we saw that our farmer brothers were lathi-charged, roads were closed. Farmers are sitting on streets in bitter cold for their rights," Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.
"I am a farmer's son, I still do farming despite being IG, Police," he added.
"I would like to request the government to repeal the draconian law. When the entire country was shivering for the fear of corona, they passed the Bill in both houses and got it passed from the President," he further said.
"I agree there is a need for change in farm laws but when our children are not happy, the government's priority should be to make them happy...Why is the government forcibly trying to push the farmers into accepting the contentious Bill?" he asked.
More Sportspersons Threaten to Return Awards
The marching athletes claimed to have the support of several Arjuna and other national sports awards winners.
Earlier, Khel Ratna awardee and India's first Olympic medal-winning boxer Vijender Singh had also threatened to return the honour in support of the protesting farmers.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana are camping at various Delhi border points for over a week, protesting against the new farm laws, which they claim will dismantle the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporate houses.
Meanwhile, IOA President Narender Batra and Secretary General Rajeev Mehta have asked the sportspersons to respect the awards they won after so much hard work and let the dialogue between the farmers and the government of India take its own course.
The statement reads, “National Awards which are given by the Government of India to sportspersons for their extraordinary performances when they are representing India in international sporting events. These National Awards are given to sportspersons as a recognition for their performance they have given for their country.”
The statement from IOA goes on to talk about how the farmers of the country deserve to be happy but returning awards is not a solution, “Of late sportspersons are seen to be announcing return of their National Awards as a mark of their support for the recent farmers issue. National Awards and farmers issue are 2 separate things, while every Indian including us loves and supports the farmers and we all would always like our farming community to be happy as they are the *ANNDATAs* of our country.”
(With inputs from PTI)
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