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Please help us and restore peace in our state, Manipur’s famous athletes appeal to the PM

A tragedy is unfolding before our eyes in Manipur but our political leaders are busy with their usual bickering. The state is being torn asunder by violence. People are being killed, women being molested and even children are not safe. Normal life has come to a standstill. The spectre of savagery haunts the daily lives of the common man.

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The complex Manipuri society’s deep rooted divisions inherited from a troubled past, have burst forth once again. It is imperative to apply a healing touch to the bleeding wounds. The state has produced some of India’s best sports persons among them being Kunjurani Devi, Thoiba Singh, Rennedy Singh, Dingko Singh, Mirabai Chanu, Sarita Devi and Mary Kom. Today many of them have sent out urgent appeals to the government for help in bringing peace to their distraught land.

Mirabai Chanu’s appeal

In a brief video clip that was released recently, weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu who had won a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games two years ago and a world championship gold medal before that, appealed to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for help.

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A look at the video is heart rending. Gone is the confidence of a champion weightlifter and her habitual smile. Instead her voice is muted by sorrow and apprehension. There is deep distress on her face as she says: “I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to quickly restore peace in Manipur. Our state has been rocked by violence for almost three months. We athletes are unable to train, students are unable to study, numerous people have been killed and countless houses destroyed. Please save us and bring back the peace that we had earlier.”

World champion boxer Mary Kom who is one of India’s most successful sports women having won six world championships, five Asian championships and an Olympic Games bronze medal, is also deeply troubled by what is going on in her home state.

Mary Kom is immensely sad

In another video Mary Kom said: “The situation is terrible and I am feeling immensely sad about it. I could never imagine that such violence would erupt so suddenly. It has reached fearsome levels. I want the state and the central government to act quickly and douse the flames which have engulfed Manipur.”

Mary Kom added: “I respect all the communities that reside in Manipur. Why can’t we all live in peace? This is my question. I am deeply sorry for the loss of lives and property of both the Meitei and the Kuki communities. I pray to God to bring peace and security to everyone here.”

Memories of Manipur

This correspondent has fond memories of Manipur which he visited while covering the National Games many years ago. It is a land of great natural beauty such as the Loktak Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in entire South Asia and is dotted with islands.

The people of Manipur are generous and hospitable but also very passionate about their beliefs. They are very straightforward and always call a spade a spade. Whatever we hear from their mouths is what they have in their hearts. Sadly the state has faced economic neglect for decades for no unsurmountable reasons. Students are well-educated but have no jobs because of a lack of industries. Many well-educated youth eke out a living as cycle rickshaw owners.

But they are tough and hardy people and it is no wonder that this tiny state has produced so many superb players in hockey, football, boxing and weightlifting. Today the entire state is anguished and suffering. The government has to act quickly and repair the fault lines or insurgent groups may seize the opportunity to fish in troubled waters. If that happens the future of the entire region will be imperiled.

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