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IOA urges sportspersons not to return awards
New Delhi, December 7, 2020
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Monday urged sportspersons not to involve their awards with the ongoing farmers agitation.
"Farmers protests and returning national sports awards are two separate things," IOA president Narender Batra and Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said in a statement.
"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," they said.
Urging the sportspersons to respect the awards they won after so much hard work, the statement said, "Let the dialogue between the farmers and the government of India take its own course."
"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 two 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 'annadatas' of our country," the statement added.
Meanwhile, police halted a protest march of sportspersons from Punjab, led by former Asian Games gold-winning wrestler Kartar Singh, from going towards Rashtrapati Bhavan
As they marched to return 35 national sports awards in a show of solidarity with the farmers, they were stopped by the police near Krishi Bhavan and sent back.
Kartar, who received the Arjuna Award in 1982 and the Padma Shri in 1987, was accompanied by former hockey Olympian Gurmail Singh and former women's hockey captain Rajbir Kaur, among others. While Gurmail is a 2014 Dhyan Chand 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," Kartar told media persons, adding "I am a farmer's son, I still do farming despite being IG, Police."
"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." he added. The marching athletes claimed to have the support of several Arjuna and other national sports awards winners.
Earlier, Khel Ratna awardee and Olympic medal-winning boxer Vijender Singh had also threatened to return the award in support of the agitating farmers.