Why 'Corona Corona' to the Northeasterners ?

Soram Lokeshwar Singh *

In view of the impending danger threatening India with the pandemic Covid-19 which became viral throughout the world from around January this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Janata Curfew on Sunday, the 22nd March 2020 along with a strong message to the nation to fight unitedly against the vicious disease by following strictly the guidance of the WHO (World Health Organisation).

Realizing the gravity of the situation some red zone States even announced total lockdown to check worsening of the situation from community transmission of Corona Virus. The uncontrollable situation became more aggravated by the stoppage of railway and bus services.

The domestic and foreign air services were also stopped. As a result thousands of people remained stranded elsewhere in and outside of India. These helpless persons consisted of students, migrants workers, pilgrims, patients party, tourists, etc. eagerly awaiting a green signal for any convenient transport to carry them back home.

Meanwhile, situation in the affected zones became worsened inspite of the best efforts made b the control as well as the local administration, frontline doctors, medical staff and supported by CSOs, local volunteers, etc. The security personnel also worked 24x7 to control the situation.

While such chaos and confusion were prevailing in almost all the major cities of India, the plight of the people from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Assam were at a different dimension. They are frequently teased by the local hooligans by calling them 'Corona, Corona' that greatly hurt the social pride of the Northeasterners.

Because of the racial stigma young girls dare to go out even to purchase their sundry needs from the local markets, while the boys were not allowed to buy things from some of the shops.

In other normal times also there were reports of social discrimination and ill treatment of the Northeasterners by some anti-social mainland Indians simply for their dress, custom and food habits. Such acts of uncivilized nature should strongly be condemned by all means and in cases of serious nature the culprits be arrested by time and punish them accordingly to the rules of law.

Such thoughtless persons should be made to understand and that we are all Indians and work together to build a strong united India.

In such a trend of events it will be worthwhile to recall afresh the role played by the sportsperson from the North-East who had contributed their might for the glory of India. The Northeasterners are mainly of Mongoloid origin. They are strong, stout and muscular.

Although of medium height in general, they best suited for disciplines, compatible to their body weights and heights. The following are some of the prominent sportspersons who brought international fame and glory for India.

Dr. T. Ao from Mokokchung, Nagaland, is the first Olympian in football from the North-East. While studying MBBS in Calcutta he was playing football for Mohun Bagan. Tall and lanky, T. Ao was Captain of the Indian football team at the London Olympic, 1948.

The team lost to France 2-1 goals. Seeing that the Indian played barefooted with no boots on, a British journalist asked Mr. Ao, "How do you play football barefooted?" Dr. Ao willingly gave a quick reply, "In India we play football while you play bootball in England." Playing with boots on was not a compulsion in those days in India.

Bhaichung Bhutia was another great football player from Sikkim who was the darling of Salt Lake Stadium crowds in his heydays. The whole nation ruptured into the chorus of applause when he scored a winning goal for India in the international tournaments.

A diminutive N. Kunjarari Devi from Manipur opened the floodgates of weightlifting in the North-East by her brilliant performances for more than a decade in the international weightlifting competition for 48 kg. group in 1990. She was also a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (1996) and Padma Shree (2011). In her footsteps Sonia Chanu (2012), Renubala Chanu (2014) and Mirabai Chanu (2018) were all Arjuna Award recipients in weightliftings.

In Boxing Ng. Dingko was the first gold medallist in Boxing at the Bangkok Asian Games in 1996. He was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1998 and Padma Shree (2013). He was also followed by the following Arjuna Awardees in boxing: Mary Kom (2003), L. Sarita (2009), M. Suranjoy (2011), L. Debendro (2017). So far, Manipur received 19 Arjuna Awards as under : Boxing (5), Weightlifting (5), Hockey (3), Judo (3), Wushu (3) and Footbal (1).

The legendary Mary Kom otherwise known as Magnificent Mary has no age bar in capping feather after feather to her credit, even at her 30+ years of age and a mother of 3 sons by becoming 6 times World Champions.

She could hardly hold back her tears when she went up the victory stand to receive her bronze medal at the medal presentation ceremony at the London Olympics in 2012. Didn't she shed her tears of joy for mainland Indians too? She was also a Padma Shree Awardee (2006). In due recognition of her spectacular performances in the international competitions she was honoured by the Government of India by nominating her as one the Members of the Rajya Sabha in 2017.

Hima Das, an athlete prodigy of Assam held her head high saluting the national tricolour to the strains of Jana Gana Mana… standing atop the victory stand to receive her gold medal for the 4x400 m relay race in the Jakarta Asian Games 2018. The whole nation wept for a Deepa Karnakar, the gymnast from Tripura when she missed a medal by a whisker at the Rio Olympic 2016. The success of these sport starts or heroes at the international level is also the pride of the people of India or even a mankind as a whole legendary M.C. May Kom is a glaring example in this aspect.

W. Surjalata Devi and P. Susila Chanu, both from Manipur were Captains for Indian Women's Hockey teams for Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002 and Rio Olympics 2016 respectively. Surjalata led the Indian Women's Hockey team to the Gold for three consecutive years: 1. Commonwealth Games 2002, Manchester, 2. Afro-Asian Games 2003, Hyderabad, 3. Hockey Asia Cup 2004, New Delhi.

Amarjit Singh Kiyam was the Captain of the U-17 World Cup Indian Football team 2017, New Delhi. No wonder, 7 players were selected from Manipur for this tournament. When Lalremsiami, the 19 years old star striker from Mizoram stranded for more than 2 1/2 months at the SAI South Centre, Bangalore after the closure of the training camp for the Indian Hockey team due to the declaration of the lockdown.

During her stay there she was well taken care of by camp officials. Team Captain Rani and her deputy Santha visited her room very often and gave her all possible help and encouragement. Very recently, she was also honoured by IFH (International Hockey Federation) as the 'Rising Star of the Year 2019'.

Considering all these honours given to the North Eastern players we can safely conclude that there is no racial bias against the Northeasterners and racial discrimination is not applied at least in sporting activities in India. If one has good talent, physical fitness, sense of discipline, abilities for socialization right from the coaching centre to the field of actual competition, one is sure of doing the national colour.

In fine, sport cuts across racial, social, religion and even ideological barriers and speaks the language of unity and nationalism. Forgetting their parochial and outlook and regional loyalties the national teams unite under one flag he moment the whistle blows for the start of the game. A spontaneous patriotic feeling is always there and play unitedly in quest for the victory of India.

There is no question of discrimination for being a player from the North East. The individual melts into the national whole, sport more than any other activities, acts as a national binder. Sporting activities, therefore, brings North Eastern people closer to the national mainstream.

* Soram Lokeshwar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is from Nagamapal RIMS Road.
This article was webcasted on August 19 2020 .

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