Asian Games 2023: Silver medallist Roshibina Devi worried for family in Manipur, prays for normalcy

Asian Games 2023: Silver medallist Roshibina Devi worried for family in Manipur, prays for normalcy

Sep 28, 2023 - 16:30
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Asian Games 2023: Silver medallist Roshibina Devi worried for family in Manipur, prays for normalcy

Roshibina Devi Naorem found it hard to focus on the sport as Manipur burnt, caught in ethnic violence between Meiteis and Kukis. It was also difficult for her to not worry about her family back home.

Still, she persevered and focused on the task at hand at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou. On Thursday, she settled for a silver medal in the final – improving on her bronze medal finish at the 2018 Asian Games.

“Anything can happen anytime” the 22-year-old told news agency PTI after winning the silver medal in China.

Thousands of kilometres from home, Roshibina broke down while speaking to reporters in Hangzhou. “None of my immediate family members or relatives are affected by the violence but our village is on the boil for nearly five months. Manipur has been on the edge since May. Anything can happen anytime. So, I am worried about my parents and siblings,” she said

For over four months, everyone in her inner circle has shielded her from what is going on in Manipur. Training in Srinagar, her coaches got her to focus on the sport and the family played their role in maintaining the distance.

More than 180 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on 3 May, when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

“The violence due to the conflict has not stopped, it is only increasing. I don’t know when will it stop. I tried not to think much about that but it affects me.

“I play for India and I request for help to bring Manipur to normalcy,” said Roshibina who belongs to the Meitei community.

Damu Singh Naorem, Roshibina’s father, owns a small piece of land at their nondescript village of Kwashiphai in Bishnupur district. The village is around 4 kilometres from the district headquarters of Bishnupur, which is around 35km from Churachandpur. Bishnupur and Churachandpur are among the worst-affected districts in Manipur violence.

With violence not abating, every family needs to contribute an able-bodied man and woman to protect their villages and Roshibina’s parents are no exception.

“My mother participates in self protection activities as part of Meira Paibis (women torch bearers) and my father also takes part in patrolling and looking after the roads and lanes at our village,” Roshibina’s younger brother Naorem Priojit Singh said from Manipur.

“We don’t tell her much about the tense situation in Manipur as that will affect her game. She called up last week but my parents just told her to concentrate on her game only.”

The only chance she’s had recently of meeting her family came in June when she stayed at Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre at Takyel in Imphal. Then, only her father came to visit.

“My father came to meet me. That was in June. I speak to them sometimes on the phone. My coaches do not allow me to speak to them regularly as that may affect my performance,” said Roshibina, who is one of the 43 athletes from Manipur who are representing India at the Asian Games.

‘Dedicate it to Manipur’

A sobbing Roshibina had dedicated the medal to those “who are protecting us and suffering there”.

“Manipur is burning. Fighting is going on in Manipur. I can’t go to my village. I want to dedicate this medal to those who are protecting us and suffering there,” she said.

The Manipuri wushu athlete, while crying inconsolably, added: “I don’t know what will happen, the fighting has been continuing. When will it stop and return to normal life of earlier times.”

She also said that she missed the three wushu players – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – from Arunachal Pradesh, who were selected in the Asian Games team but were denied proper visa by the Chinese government.

“We are very good friends and we support each other. But they are not here and I feel very sad.”

(with PTI inputs)

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