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Worried about her family back home, wushu player Naorem Roshibina Devi prays for normalcy in violence-hit Manipur

She has achieved the goal of winning a medal in not-so-popular wushu at the Asian Games but the safety and security of her parents keeps her anxious and distressed

PTI Hangzhou Published 28.09.23, 03:10 PM
Roshibina Devi

Roshibina Devi File

It was difficult for Naorem Roshibina Devi to not think about the 'burning Manipur', caught in ethnic violence between the Meitians and Kukis. It was difficult not to worry about her family.

It was difficult to not let fear grip her mind and stay focussed on job at hand - winning an Asian Games medal.


She has achieved the goal of winning a medal in not-so-popular wushu but the safety and security of her parents keeps her anxious and distressed.

"Anything can happen anytime" the 22-year-old told PTI after winning a silver on Thursday.

In faraway China, an emotional Roshibina can't celebrate the achievement.

"None of my immediate family members or relatives is 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 more than four months everyone around Roshibina has tried to shield her from the daily battle for survival her family is going through in the violence-hit Manipur so she can concentrate on her sport.

The strategy seems to have worked as her Asian Games campaign culminated in a silver medal in the sanda 60kg category. She had won a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

More than 180 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, 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.

Roshibina's farmer father Naorem Damu Singh owns a small piece of land at their nondescript village of Kwashiphai in Bishnupur district. Her mother Romila Devi also helps her husband. The wushu player has an elder sister, who is currently studying in Guwahati, and a younger brother.

Roshibina's village is around 4km from the district headquarter of Bishnupur, which is around 35km from Churachandpur.

Bishnupur and Churachandpur are among the worst-affected districts in Manipur violence. Churachandpur is dominated by the Kuki community.

The conflict between the two communities has killed scores of people and injured so many more. 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." Roshibina was at the wushu national training camp in Srinagar for two months before the Asian Games. She had gone home in June during a break of 15 days but she did not go to her village. She stayed at Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre at Takyel in Imphal.

"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 among the 43 athletes from Manipur who are representing the country in the continental event.

Earlier, a sobbing Roshibina had dedicated her 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 athlete was crying inconsolably as she 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 spoke to her parents on Wednesday and they asked her to focus on the final without getting distracted by the Manipuri violence.

The Indian found the going tough against Wu Xiaowei, the reigning champions in the category, allowing the Chinese to get off to a strong start. Wu was declared winner by the judges after two rounds.

Roshibina began her wushu career in 2012 when she was studying in class four in a school nearby on the advice of a relative who recommended her to a local coach.

"An older sister (sic) from my village suggested that I enrol in the SAI center in Manipur, she was also at SAI at that time. My parents agreed and sent my performance records to a local coach, Maibam Premkumar Singh, who is SAI Imphal head coach.

"I began my career that way and then won national and international medals," said the wushu player who is a BA first year student at CI College in Bishnupur.

"What I am today is because of Premkumar sir," she added.

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."

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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