Deaf wrestler Virender Singh, popularly known as Goonga Pahalwan, said that he will return his Padma Shri in solidarity with the protesting grapplers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik, on Friday.

Singh took to his social media account X, formerly called Twitter, to announce his decision just hours after Punia left his Padma Shri on a footpath outside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence.

“I will also return my Padma Shri to the honourable Prime Minister, for my sister and the country’s daughter,” Singh wrote. “I am proud of my sister.”

Singh also tagged top Indian sportspersons Sachin Tendulkar and Neeraj Chopra for their support.

“I would also request the top players of the country Sachin Tendulkar, Neeraj Chopra to give their decision,” he wrote.

Singh is a three-time Deaflympics gold medallist and was awarded the Padma Shri in 2021. He is also an Arjuna Award recipient.

This development comes after the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Malik announced her retirement after the former Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bushan Sharan Singh’s close aide Sanjay Singh was elected as the new president of the sports body on Thursday.

“We slept on roads for 40 days,” Malik had then said in a press conference. “We fought with all our heart but if the president is like Brij Bushan Sharan Singh – his close aide and business partner – if he stays in the federation then I sacrifice my wrestling career.”

In January this year, top Indian wrestlers including Punia, Malik, Phogat, and others had launched a protest against Brij Bushan Sharan Singh, a sitting Bhartiya Janta Party MP, accusing him of intimidation and sexual harassment.

The protest was restarted in April at Jantar Mantar and the wrestler’s spent more than a month at the protest site after no action was taken against the then president.

Brij Bushan was then asked to step down from his post and an ad-hoc committee was appointed to run the daily affairs of the federation until a fresh election was conducted on Thursday.