Award-winning Manipuri athlete 'abused, stuck' in Mumbai

Updated: May 13, 2020, 07:46 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Bodybuilder Rebita Devi Kongbrailatpam visited the city in February this year to accept an international award; faced a lot of racial abuse amid lockdown woes

Rebita Devi in her hotel room on Tuesday;
Rebita Devi in her hotel room on Tuesday;

When Rebita Devi Kongbrailatpam, 29, a renowned body-builder from Manipur, landed in Mumbai in February to collect an international award, she had no idea that she would end up living within the confines of her hotel room for more than two months. Apart from dealing with racial slurs, she is also struggling to find a way back home.

Kongbrailatpam came to Mumbai on February 16 for the 7th World Women Leadership Congress and Awards that was held at Taj Lands End in Bandra and she was presented with the Woman Super Achiever Award. "After the event, I had some meetings since I was looking for an Indian sponsor for an event I am planning. I had to, therefore, stay back for a couple of weeks. But then the lockdown came into effect and I got stuck here," she said.

During one of the body building competitions
During one of the body building competitions

She soon began to find it difficult to afford a hotel. To add to her woes, the body-builder was also being verbally abused and was even attacked by a few men which prompted her to get her head shaved off. "They would yell at me "Go Corona Go" and when I asked them why they said that, they would say that I am from China and I was responsible for spreading the virus. A few weeks ago, a group of four to five men attacked me and even broke my phone. I was terrified and thought that it was safer if I looked like a guy. So I went to a temple and got my head shaved off," she said.

Local civic officials help
Kongbrailatpam was trying to look for budget accommodation when she was put in touch with the H-West ward office. Civic officials put her up in a hotel on Hill Road in Bandra and since the first week of April, her hotel room has been her home. Apart from taking care of her accommodation, civic officials have also been arranging food and supplies for her.

Vinayak Vispute, assistant municipal commissioner of H-West ward said that they have written to the Suburban Collectorate as well as to the Bandra Police Station on April 8 asking for assistance to send her back home. They have also tried to contact Manipur CM N Biren Singh"s office for help. He added that the ward office has also arranged for a medical certificate for her which is mandatory for inter-state travel.

The H-West ward officials are now in talks with some travel agencies.

H V Javeed, executive engineer of H-West ward, said, "We have tried to help her since she is an international athlete and more importantly a woman. There are around 25 Manipuri residents in Navi Mumbai who want to travel back home too. We are trying our best to make arrangements to send all of them back home."" While the efforts to find a mode of transport are still underway, a bus that would ferry them back home would cost at least R2 lakh.

Family worried
While Kongbrailatpam has been involved in sports since she was seven years old, she has been into international bodybuilding for the past eight years and has also won awards in martial arts. However, without her special diet, Kongbrailatpam has lost a lot of weight over the past couple of months. "My sister is worried about my safety and she has been trying to coordinate with the state government in Manipur to help me get back home. The BMC officials here have been very helpful. We are all trying and I really hope that I am able to go back home soon," she said.

As per the protocol, the Deputy Commissioner of Police has been deputed as the nodal officer who is arranging for transport, especially for migrant labourers. Train travel, however, is limited and currently, trains are only travelling from Mumbai to New Delhi. When contacted, DCP Abhishek Trimukhe, said, "We will process her application and will try to make arrangements to send her back home."

Day in Feb when Rebita Devi arrived in Mumbai

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