If there is one region from the country that stands out in terms of sporting achievements, it is the Northeast. 

From Mary Kom (Manipur/Boxing) to Mirabai Chanu (Manipur/Weightlifting), from Lovlina Borgohain (Assam/Boxing) to Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (Manipur/Football), and from Shushila Likmabam (Manipur/Judo) to Lalremsiami (Mizoram/Hockey)- the list is long. 

The first 3 athletes named above are Olympic medal winners (Lovlina being prospective), and yet, the people from the region face discrimination and disrespect.

To be clear, this isn’t an ‘us and them’ situation. I am just trying to say that if people belonging to a certain part of the country are harassed based on how they look and speak, and celebrated only when they win medals, it becomes important to discuss the unfair treatment.

Mirabai Chanu was the first Indian to win a medal at Tokyo Olympics. She won it on the first day of the competition. 

And the entire country started celebrating it with countless posts and other means of showing support. 

As it should. 

However, why did we not see the same support for women from the Northeast, who were stopped on the street by men who asked them what their “rate” was?

On the same lines, why do we not see the same support when a brash individual calls Northeastern people “ch*nky” or asks them which country they are from?

Why does the rest of the country not stand up for their right to live with dignity?

Somehow, their struggles are personal but victories, shared. That does not seem fair to me. 

The athletes, of course, just want to make the country proud. They do not think of it in terms of regions and states.

But the same should be the country’s outlook too. Not just towards the athletes but towards everyone from every part of the nation. 

The reality is far from this, though. Our memories are short, and habits deep rooted.

It has happened before that people have forgotten Olympic medal winners, and other participating athletes in a few months, the celebrations have died down, and things have gone back to how they were – terrible and heartbreaking.

Let us hope that the same is not repeated and we remember the joy athletes from the Northeast brought to the nation by representing us at the highest level.

Let us hope no Indian is ever asked what country they belong to.