Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
Polo, often thought of as a game of the rich, has also been generally dominated by men. However, a quiet revolution is taking place at the very place where it all started – the northeast Indian state of Manipur, which is considered the birthplace of modern polo.
While men had been playing this game here for centuries, the spotlight has now shifted to women of the state who now field five professional polo teams to compete with the world’s best. These Manipuri women from humble backgrounds are not only shattering stereotypes that polo is a game for men, but also that it is the privilege of the rich.
L. Somi Roy, conservationist and partner at Huntre! Equine, has been one of the main crusaders for women’s polo in the state and sees it also as a campaign to save the iconic Manipuri pony, whose numbers have been declining over the years. He says while Manipuri women traditionally did not play polo as it was an equestrian game coming out of a martial tradition, in modern times, in the 1980s, they got inspired by their male relatives.
“The All Manipur Polo Association encouraged them. About 40-45 per cent of polo players in the world are women. So we are just catching up. It’s pretty gender free as a sport, so it puts them on the level of men when they play together,” Roy tells IANS.
While Manipur produces one-third of male players and three-fourths of women players in the country, Roy says most of these players from an isolated, economically-underdeveloped state are not members of the Indian Polo Association.
Yet, the state has India’s longest polo season — November to March — with two international and four state tournaments, including the Manipur Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament, the only such tournament in India where teams from the US, UK, Canada, Kenya, Australia and Argentina have participated alongside Manipuri girls.
The matches are held in Imphal’s Mapal Kangjeibung Stadium, the oldest running polo ground in the world.
Filmmaker Roopa Barua, who started documenting the story of women’s polo in Manipur in 2016, says a young polo sisterhood is developing in the state that ploughs on despite adversity and political turmoil.
“Around 2014-15, there was an effort to bring in international women players to play in Manipur. Part of this effort was to create a campaign to save the Manipuri pony which is endangered. I saw a symbiotic relationship developing and I followed this story for four years,” she tells IANS.
This documentation culminated in a film which intends to take the story of these strong women players to the world. The documentary film, “Daughters of the Polo God” was showcased earlier this month at the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi, and would also be screened at the Bombay Stock Exchange on March 26.
“Manipuri players are natural horsewomen and extremely athletic. As I stayed on throughout the tournament, I saw that women’s polo was becoming a growing story. The symbiotic relationship between women’s polo and the endangered Manipuri pony was a very unique concept,” Barua said.
Nineteen-year-old Tanna Thoudam, one of the protagonists of the film, was inspired to play polo when she saw some women players playing in a match in 2010.
“Their enthusiasm lit a desire in me to play polo. I’ve felt close to horses since my uncle brought them home. But before that, horses roamed about everywhere. My family was not very well off and my uncle couldn’t afford to buy a horse,” she says.
Tanna joined the Assam Rifles Polo Club in 2011 and became the only junior to make it to the final Manipuri team for the 2017 Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament. “It was the happiest moment of my life.”
Thoinu Thoudum, founder of the Chingkhei Hunba Polo Club, says it is good to have a women’s tournament as it encourages girls to start playing polo while also showing solidarity and respect for women players.
Jetholia Thongbam started playing polo in 2016 and carried on even after her sister stopped playing following her marriage. She believes that Manipuri players are becoming better every year by playing with international players.
“Playing with the United States Polo Association (USPA) team was a great experience. Though their skills are very different from ours, we could learn a lot,” she says.
N. Ibungochoubi, Secretary of the Manipur Polo Society, says the relationship between Manipuris and horses is special.
“Horses for centuries here are owned by people, they are trained, they are broken. And then they are let loose to graze freely in the open wetlands of Manipur.”
But lately, the Manipuri ponies have lost their home to urban blight with their numbers declining from 1,893 in 2003 to just around 500 in 2014.
This is where this symbiotic relationship between humans and horses can potentially be a game-changer.
“Here is one (polo) community whose welfare is so closely tied with the welfare of the animal on which the game is played. We felt that since India did not have any women’s polo tournament, Manipur could be, and should be, the home of women’s polo in India,” Somi Roy says.
He adds that going to play polo in Manipur is like going to Mecca.
“For people who know the history of polo, Manipur is a special place – that’s where it all came from. And then we say it’s going to be played on the original Manipuri pony, and then we tell them that it is on the world’s oldest living polo ground. It’s a fairly irresistible invitation,” Roy adds. (IANS)
As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.
According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.
Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.
Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.
As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.
Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.
Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.
Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.
Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.
Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.
Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.
Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.
The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.
To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.
Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.
The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.
The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.
The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.
Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.
The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.
When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.
"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.
"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.
Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.
On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.
Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.
Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.
The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.
The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.
"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.
"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.
ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.
"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.
"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.
"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."
"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.