July 16, 2012

Nagalim: Olympic Appearance Could Dispel Some Misconceptions About Naga Identity

Chekrovolu Swuro, the 30-year-old archer, will become the second Naga to represent India in the Olympic Games. 

Below is an article published by The Times of India:

The divisions in Nagaland may be old-as-time but come this Olympic fortnight, expect the state and all its people to come together to agree on one thing: unflinching support for Chekrovolu Swuro.

The 30-year-old archer from Dzulha village in the state's hilly Phek district, will become the second Naga to represent India at sport's grandest stage after Dr Talirmen Ao, independent India's first football captain led a team of barefoot footballers sixty-four years ago -- incidentally at the second Games that London hosted in 1948. What adds to the collective Naga hopes is that Chekrovolu is a potential medal contender in the women's team competition along with fellow north-easterner, Bombalya Devi of Manipur and Ranchi's teenaged prodigy, Deepika Kumari.

Chekrovolu -- an oasis of peace when armed with her bow and arrow -- is aware of the significance of this distinction and its accompanying burden. The opportunity of an Olympic appearance, she says, could dispel at least some of the misconceptions people have about the Nagas and help bridge the gap between the north-east and the rest of the country. "Alag, alag chehre hain, but we are not outsiders. Irrespective of whether I win a medal or not, my participating in London could help change the perceptions the rest of the country have about us," she says. "We will stop being called 'Ching Chong' whenever we venture out in the rest of the country," hopes Chekrovolu.

Sport has for long played the soothing balm in the insurgency-hit regions of the north-east, even helping build bridges with an usually ignorant and insensitive mainland. While the rest of the country may be largely oblivious to it, the north-east has invested well in the legacy of Dr Ao. There is an annual regional tournament held in his name -- each year, one of the seven north-eastern states gets to host it and teams representing most of the local tribes participate. The dividends have paid off. Like Chekrovolu's teammate Bombalya, this time too, the Indian contingent to London has its fair share of sportspersons from the region -- particularly in boxing and the hockey squad.

Chekrovolu's state too understands the enormity of her achievement. Last Sunday, the Chakhesang Baptist Church in the district even called a special prayer for the success of the Naga archer.

The Chakhesang tribe to which she belongs, says Chekrovolu, is among the more backward ones in Nagaland and she hopes her performance in London will draw attention to it and help elevate its status in the state. "I am not comfortable with the backward status of we Chakhesang people. It is not needed anymore. We have gone ahead in life. I have benefited greatly from their support. Now it is time for me to give something back, by giving them a name across the country," she says. "It will be quite something for a woman from the village and my tribe to shine for her state and her country."

Employed with the Nagaland police, Chekrovolu has often spoken of how hurt she would feel when people would show scant respect for the National Anthem during the flag-hoisting ceremony on Independence Day back home. "People didn't know, or seemed to want to know, the words to Jana Gana Mana. I'd always give a full-throated rendition," she says, adding, "But now it's changing. Last year on August 15, there were many who stood up when it was played."

Chekrovolu hopes the strains of the anthem will inspire the same reaction back home when, hopefully, it will be played at Lord's, the venue of the archery competition, should the Indian women find themselves with a favourable podium finish in London.