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Photo: PTI

For years, friends and foes alike have known her to be an indomitable street fighter. Last April, Time magazine put her on its list of the 100 most influential leaders in the world. And, now, about two years after kicking the world’s longest running Communist government out of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is about to receive a title truly worthy of her tenacity and fighting spirit.

Come February and Seoul-based KUKKIWON, the apex body of Korean martial art Taekwondo, will confer an honorary black belt on the West Bengal chief minister.

The title will put Mamata in the same bracket as US president Barrack Obama and British soccer star David Beckham, both of whom have also been bestowed the honour.

Only two other Indians have ever received the award — Bollywood star and Bengal brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan and Mizoram’s 73-year-old chief minister, Pu Lalthanwala.

“KUKKIWON is handing over the degree to salute Mamata’s fighting spirit and enthusiasm for sports. In fact, the state government and KUKKIWON are jointly planning to open a Taekwondo university in the city,” Pradipto Roy, a former Taekwondo world champion from India and the first Taekwondo Hall of Fame recipient from this country, told Hindustan Times, adding, “Both SRK and Lalthanwala were conferred the degree through franchisees or members of KUKKIWON. But this will be the first time that the world’s apex Taekwondo body comes to India to bestow the degree on an Indian.”

“After the ceremony, Mamata will become a Taekwondo grandmaster,” Roy confirmed.

The organisers are not ready to declare the date of the conferring programme, but the KUKKIWON office in Seoul has already informed the chief minister of the plan. The programme is likely to be organised in early February.

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