Calls for peace and progress through Sports
The South Asian Games (SAG) 2016 that were organised at Guwahati under the auspices of Olympic Council of Asia connected the entire North-East with the rest of the country and rest of Asia in its new form and vigour. This has happened for the first time in the sports history. The famous composer, writer and poet of Assam Dr Bhupen Hazarika has equated the world with a sports ground and sports with peace. The thousands of players and sportspersons coming from Bharat, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka who gathered in Guwahati, the land of Hazarika, proved him right. The Tamil and Sinhalese players of Sri Lanka were playing for their countries forgetting all their differences and animosities. When the Pakistani players hugged their Bharateeya counterparts, some Kashmiri youths sitting in the gallery were waving Tiranga flags with slogans of Jai Hind and Bharat Mata Ki Jai on their lips.
The Government of Bharat looks at entire north-east as a troubled region and the Army has been granted special powers to establish peace in this region. In spite of this the 12th South Asian Games organised by Ministry of Youth and Sports, Government of Bharat passed off peacefully and with enthusiasm on February 16. With this the Ministry got credit for projecting the North-East as a probable destination for those interested in investing in the region for its development. The Union Government has accelerated the pace of development activities in tourism, health and other sectors by successfully holding these games. On the other hand this has raised a big question mark on the policy and existence of over 40 separatist organisations active in this region. This shows that these elements are slowly losing their grip on the region underlining the fact that people of North-East are more interested in peace, progress, employment and education and development. The crowd assembled in the Shillong stadium and outside to witness the women’s football match endorsed this finding that the youth of North-East has sided with development and progress and not with separatist attitude and elements.
The credit for organising such grand spectacle goes definitely to Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his team besides the police team of Assam and Meghalaya. BSF, CRPF, ITBP, Assam Rifles and 4th Core of Indian Army also cooperated with them in this event.
Sonowal had to toil hard for the success of South Asian Games as the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi did not cooperate in full due to obvious political reasons. On the contrary, Gogoi created a very unfortunate atmosphere by creating unnecessary controversy regarding finalising the venue of Badminton Tournament with the Meghalaya Government. However, with deft handling of the situation by Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, the controversy was subsided. All the media criticised Gogoi for his stubborn attitude in this regard. All the English and language newspapers wrote columns criticising the Chief Minister for this non-cooperative attitude. But the pleasant alliance between Sonowal and Sangma thwarted any untoward incident and the event passed off peacefully.
The people of Assam are offended and angry with Tarun Gogoi and Congress for one more reason. The State will be going to polls in the month of April. With this in view the Congress displayed some 300 posters and banners portraying the PM in a very bad manner and taste. People feel that by doing so the Congress tried to demean the Prime Minister in the eyes of visiting sportspersons from neighbouring countries.
But frustrating all the efforts of those elements the people of North-East have supported this mega event with greater enthusiasm and commitment. The sports opportunities in the North-East are immense and need to be explored. Baichung Bhutia, Mary Com, Shiv Thapa, Suil Chhetri are some of the top products of this region. Looking at these possibilities the Union Government has taken up the task of setting up a Sports University in Imphal in Manipur besides establishing sports academies in Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkin and Nagaland.
With the successful organisation of SAG 2016, the Union Government succeeded in sending the clear and loud message for converting sports as a vehicle of development and career. Besides, this has sidelined the separatists and terrorist elements to a great extent in the region.