New Delhi: India’s first Olympic medalist in boxing and Congress leader Vijender Singh on Sunday threatened to return his Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award if the central government does not accept the demands of farmers protesting against the new agricultural laws.
The 35-year-old farmer – based in Bhiwani, Haryana – appeared at a protest site on the Singhhu border in Delhi.
“I have decided that I will return my Khel Ratna as a show of solidarity, if the government does not listen to the demands of the farmers,” Vijender told PTI
“I come from a family of farmers and military men. I can understand their pain and anxiety. It’s time for the government to pay attention to their demands,” he said.
Vijender won India’s first Olympic medal in boxing at the 2008 Beijing Games.
In 2009, he became the first Indian boxer to win a World Championship medal (bronze). That same year, he was awarded the country’s highest sports honor for his achievements.
He is currently running his business on the professional circuit and also contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“The award definitely means a lot to me but we have to take a stand for what we believe in,” he said.
“If the crisis is resolved with negotiations, we will all be happy,” he said.
Earlier, Gurbax Singh Sandhu, the former national boxing coach who was in charge during the Beijing Olympics, spoke of returning the Dronacharya title if the farmers’ demands were not met.
Vijender and Sandhu joined several ex-athletes and supported the agitated farmers.
They include Padma Shri and Arjuna Award-winning Kartar Singh, Arjuna Award-winning basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna Award-winning hockey player Rajbir Kaur.
Thousands of farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been staying at various Delhi borders over the past few days in protest of the new agrarian laws, fearing that it would dismantle the minimum support price system and leave it to the “mercy” of large corporate houses.
The concern of farmers is that these laws remove the MSP and knees that guarantee earnings. But the government says the MSP system will continue and new laws will give farmers more options to sell their produce.
The government is in talks with farmers who threatened to occupy the toll plazas by calling for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8.

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