When boxing champion Sarita protested against being dropped from the Indian team, the media was present in strength to take up her case. NINGLUN HANGHAL on the media’s support for sportspersons from the north-east
There were few takers when Sarita Devi, the current Asian Champion in Boxing and an Arjuna Awardee 2009 called a press conference in Delhi on September 24, 2010. The Delhi based North East media and NDTV turned up at the Manipur state emporium for the event.
Sarita said that in August she was selected in the 51 kg category to represent the Indian team at the Asian Games in November 2010 in China. Even though her selection was reported in a newspaper, trials were held a second time on September 22 and she was dropped from the team. Sarita, who is an Arjun award winner for 2009 has demanded the removal of corrupt officials and a retrial in the presence of the media. When she announced that she was going to protest before Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill and return her award, a dozen television cameras turned up at the minister’s residence. The minister was pressurised to come out and make a statement following his meeting with Sarita. It was quite evident that the minister would not have given her 40 minutes of his time had the media not accompanied her.
A week before the Sarita episode, the five time world boxing champion Mary Kom, also from Manipur, was given a red carpet welcome in Delhi on her return from the just concluded Women’s World Boxing Championship in Bridgetown on September 21. There were about a couple of dozen television cameras and an equal number of print media representatives. In her home state, she was accorded a ‘hero’s welcome’. The coverage continued for many days.
A day before receiving the Khel Ratna 2009, in August last year, Mary had said to this writer that the media coverage had pressurised the government to act. In 2001 after she had won successive gold medals the government gave her the job of a constable and now she has been promoted to the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Awards in cash and kind have been galore.
For these sportspersons from lesser known states the media has played a vital role in their promotion by highlighting the hardships they had to undergo to make it to the top. Some of them are not yet media savvy and it was not unusual for a new star like Renubala Chanu to be caught by the media as she was taking an auto-rickshaw during the recent CWG games and getting caught in a traffic jam. This became an item number for the media who went to town about a medal winner having to take an auto rickshaw. It was also an occasion for the media to go into Renubala’s background.
On the whole the media has played a vital role in these sportsperson gaining recognition and their due.