Farmers' agitation: Boxer Vijender says will return Khel Ratna if 'black laws' not withdrawn

Farmers' agitation: Boxer Vijender says will return Khel Ratna if 'black laws' not withdrawn
Boxer Vijender Singh joins the farmers with Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest march against the new farm laws, at Singhu border in New Delhi. PTI

New Delhi: India's first Olympic medallist in boxing and Congress leader Vijender Singh on Sunday threatened to return his Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award if the central government does not withdraw the new farm legislations, which he dubbed as "black laws".

The 35-year-old from Haryana's Bhiwani made an appearance at Delhi's Singhu border where farmers have been protesting against the laws and expressed solidarity with the agitators.

"...if the government does not take back these black laws, I will request them to take back my award," he announced at the gathering.

"Enough is enough, if the government does not listen to the demands of the farmers, then I have decided that as a show of solidarity, I will return my Khel Ratna," Vijender later told PTI.

"I come from a family of farmers and Army men, I can understand their pain and anxiety. It is high time that government pays heed to their demands," added the celebrated boxer, whose brother has served in the Army.

Vijender had won India's first Olympic medal in boxing, a bronze, in the 2008 Beijing Games.

In 2009, he also became the first Indian boxer to clinch a world championship medal (a bronze). The same year, he was bestowed the country's highest sporting honour for his trailblazing achievements.

He currently plies his trade in the professional circuit and had even contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

"The award definitely means a lot to me but we also have to take a stand for things we believe in," he said.

"If the crisis is resolved with talks, then we would all be happy," he added.

Earlier, former national boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, who was in-charge during the Beijing Olympics, had also talked about returning his Dronacharya award if the demands of the farmers were not addressed.

Vijender and Sandhu joined several former sportspersons in extending their support to the agitating farmers.

Among them are Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have stayed put at various Delhi border points for the past few days, protesting against the new farm laws, which they fear will dismantle the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporate houses.

Farmers' concern is that these laws, aimed at reforming the sector, will eliminate the MSP and mandis that ensure their earning. But the government says the MSP system will continue and the new laws will give farmers more options to sell their produce.

The government is holding talks with farmers, who have called for a 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8 and threatened to occupy toll plazas.

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