The turmoil in Manipur played on L Sarita Devi’s mind as she fought for a fourth successive gold at the Asian Championships and the fly weight boxer dedicated her medal to the crisis-ridden State hoping that peace would return there soon.

Part of the Indian team that won two gold, a silver and five bronze medals to finish fourth in the championship, the former world champion returned from Astana (Kazakhstan) on Monday night.

Sarita said even while she was preparing for the event in a Bhopal camp, Manipur occupied her thoughts.

Manipur is facing a crisis of essential goods after Nagas blocked the national highways due to the Manipuris’ refusal to let the National Socialist Council of Nagaland leader Thuingaleng Muivah visit his ancestral village in Ukhrul.

“What goes on in my State hardly ever makes news. It hurts to see the plight of people there. Schools have been closed for so long. Essential items have become a luxury, a simple gas cylinder is costing over Rs 1,000.

“Why can’t we just forget about ethnic identities and realise that we are human beings first?” Sarita told PTI.

“Even at the Championship, I was constantly thinking about what would be going on there. Then I thought, I have to win it for my State. In Manipur, people appreciate sporting achievements and I hope my medal has made them happy... even if it’s just for a few moments,” she said.

“God has made us the same, I wonder when we would realise this.”

The 27-year-old former taekwando player took up boxing after watching a bout featuring Asian Games gold medallist Dingko Singh in 1999.

“Dingko is an icon in north-east. People are crazy about him. I saw him just a few months after he won the gold in the Asian Games and I felt like, I have to be like him. The boxing bug bit me only after I saw him,” she revealed.

“I have been such a huge fan of him that when I met him for the first time, I gave him a card. It was a big moment for me at that time,” she said.

“I also like Laila Ali (the boxer daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali),” she added.

Apart from these inspirations, Sarita said she also had to fulfil her late father’s wish.

“My father introduced me to taekwando and he wanted to see me as a successful sportperson. I took up boxing after his death and my family supported me despite the fact that we were a big family with limited means,” she said.

Sarita has now set her sights on a medal at the London Olympics.

“I want to win a medal there because it would be the biggest moment of my career,” she said.

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