Manipur struck gold at the 21st Senior National Sepak Takraw Championship that concluded here on Wednesday. But an alleged sexual assault on their women players followed by a free-for-all took the sheen off their glory.
The four-day Sepak Takraw or kick-volleyball championship had begun on September 19. By Tuesday, the Manipur contingent had bagged four gold medals in the tournament.
But trouble began that night when a miscreant barged into the stadium guesthouse where the 15-member Manipur women’s team was staying and allegedly molested one of the players. The miscreant escaped after the players raised the alarm.
On Wednesday morning, the Manipur players assaulted stadium casual employee Phul Kumar Das on suspicion of being the nocturnal visitor. Brimming with anger, they also went on the rampage, damaging stadium property, police vehicles and preventing movement of players and spectators to and from the stadium complex.
Local players and onlookers retaliated, and in the ensuing melee one of the Manipur players — Tombisena Devi — was injured. She was admitted to the hospital along with the alleged sexual offender Das. “Prima facie, this appears to be a case of misunderstanding. The accused was beaten into a coma, so it's difficult to come to a conclusion until we interrogate him after he regains consciousness,” said City SSP Pradip Kumar Saloi.
The Manipur players refused to play on the final day. But they changed their decision.