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Manipuri shooters from B'desh seek more ties with 'homely' NE

Guwahati: Manipuri players in Bangladesh's contingent for the ongoing South Asian Games (SAG) expressed happiness at being in the northeast and called for more sporting events between the region and the neighbouring country.

Shooters Mahendra Kumar Singha and Anjan Singha, both Bishnupriya Manipuris, said such programmes would help the community nurture sporting talent. Belonging to the first generation of players from the Bishnupriya Manipuri community in Bangladesh to feature in the national team, both Mahendra and Anjan were full of praise for the Manipuri athletes taking part in the event.

"There should be more sporting events like this, especially between Bangladesh and this part of India. People here and back home are the same. Our food habits, culture and even vehicles and roads are similar. More people-to-people contact will be helpful and eventually it will improve relations between the two countries," Mahendra, who won a bronze in the 50-m pistol team event, told TOI at the Kahilipara shooting range here on Saturday.

"Manipuris in Bangladeshi are very advanced in fields like education, but, in sports, we are a bit behind. We can plan something like an exchange programme with the northeast. This will help us immensely," said Singha, who is attached to the Bangladesh Army.

"There are more than 1.5 lakh Manipuris in Bangladesh. My cousin, Simul Kanti Singha, also took part in SAG in the weightlifting category," he added. The 36-year-old, who has participated in UN peacekeeping missions, said he wanted to improve his score to 580. "If I can do that, I will be able to break into the top ranks in Asia," he added.

"Playing in Guwahati is like playing at home. I've been to India at least four times but being in Guwahati is really special. We never felt that we were away from home. We have been communicating in Bengali with the people here. It's been a great experience," said Anjan.

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