In faraway Korea, Indian weightlifter Bindyarani Devi on Saturday wondered if the news of her silver medal-winning effort at the Asian Championship had reached her parents, in violence-hit Manipur.
More importantly, she was thinking if they were safe, for she hasn’t been able to speak with them for the past two days owing to the internet shutdown arising out of the ethnic violence in her native state, rendering the people there incommunicado.
When PTI contacted her in Jinju, the place where she put aside all her concerns related to the conflict to stand on the podium while representing her country, the 24-year-old athlete broke down on the phone.
“I haven’t been able to speak to my parents for the past two days,” a sobbing Bindyarani said a couple of hours after her win.
“Har competition ke pehle mumma mujhe call karke ashrivaad deti hain par aaj aisa nahi hua (My mother blesses me before all my competitions. But today, I couldn’t speak to her),” she added.
The conflict has killed scores of people, inured so many more, and prompted shoot at sight order.
Nearly 10,000 army, para-military and central police forces have been deployed in the state where riots broke out.
Internet services have been suspended for five days to prevent disturbance of peace and public order, while the state government on Thursday also authorised all district magistrates to issue “shoot at sight orders” in “extreme cases”.
“The internet is shut down, I haven’t been able to talk to them, I am scared. Even today, before going for the competition I felt like crying,” Bindyarani said.
The Commonwealth Games silver medallist’s father is a farmer who also owns a grocery shop. She also has a brother, a sister and a sister-in-law back home.
“There was no violence around my house the last time I spoke but now I don’t know what is happening.
“When I spoke to my family three days ago, at that time this issue was not so big. But now things have become quite bad.” Bindyarani said.
She lifted a total of 194kg (83kg+111kg) to open India’s medal count in this edition of the championship. But she couldn’t call her parents to share the joy. In fact, she didn’t even know if her family was aware of her latest achievement.
Bindyarani, who belongs to the Meitei community, hails from Langol Ningthou Leikai on the outskirts of Imphal, which is close to one of the areas of the ongoing clashes.
A lot of people of the Kuki tribe live near her residence and several houses have been burnt down.
However, according to sources her house is safe.
Manipur was struck by violent confrontations when members of the Kuki tribe and majority Meitei community clashed with each other on Wednesday resulting in several deaths and displacement of thousands of people.
According to the latest official count, the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 50 people.
The Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of the state population and live mostly in the Imphal valley.
On the other hand, tribals -- Nagas and Kukis -- constitute another 40 per cent of the population and live mostly in the hill districts.
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