How many of us are aware that Hima Das, from the northeast has won three Gold medals within a span of 11 days in the European circuit? Are we interested in knowing the present state of injuries of another Northeastern girl Dipa Karmakar, one of our medal hopes in the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics? But we definitely know where Virat Kohli or Mahendra Singh Dhoni is holidaying after India’s unceremonious exit from the cricket World Cup. The entire country is debating over India’s failure in cricket World Cup rather than discussing the success of Hima Das. Even in the media, very little space has been given to highlight the achievement of Hima. Sports pages were full of cricket coverage. The moot question here is whether India will ever be regarded as a sporting nation with such a partisan attitude towards sports?
There is no quarrel over cricket getting prominence in the country. Cricket is an enjoyable sport and it is bound to attract the attention of the people. But love for cricket should not mean neglect of other sports. Other sports, especially olympic sports should get equal, if not more attention. We should salute the efforts of the sportspersons, who away from limelight toil day in and out with the sole ambition of making the nation proud. Sometimes they taste success, sometimes not. But that should not make them less precious than a Kohli or Rohit Sharma. Everyone, who is working hard to earn laurels for the country should be respected equally. Discrimination among sports and sportspersons will certainly act as a barrier to prosper in sporting arena.
But the story of neglect is on going and has been for years. Sportspersons, especially those from the Northeastern region, are at the receiving end of such discrimination. Often, they are not picked to represent the country even after successfully passing of all qualification marks. Take the example of Dingko Singh, the first Boxer from India to win a Gold medal in Asian Games. Dingko was not even included in the Indian boxing squad despite being the best medal prospect for Asian Games. His place was taken by someone, who was reportedly close to few powerful persons. When some true sport lovers raised hue and cry over such a cruel omission, Dingko was included in the team and the rest is history. Five-time world champion and Olympic Bronze medallist Merykom was denied Rajiv Khel Ratna award, the highest sporting honour of the country, for several years. When the protest became louder for such a shocking act, ‘Magnificent Mary’ was given her due along with two other sportspersons. Those two also deserved the award. But as per the guidelines of conferring the award, it was clearly written that the sportsperson, who performed most creditably in international arena, would be honoured. According to the guidelines, there was no provision for sharing the award among athletes. The incident provided ample evidence of discrimination towards Northeastern sportspersons.
There is no need to make the list long. Northeastern region has made the nation proud in many aspects. But recognitions for such achievements have been few and rare. One can only remain hopeful that sooner than later, the situation will change. The region which gave India its first captains in both men’s and women’s football and also the captain for the U-17 football team, which participated in the FIFA competition for the first time in 2017, should be regarded as the nerve centre of sports in India.