If only the government had worked on its plan to tap sports talent in the northeast earlier, even Paresh Barua, the dreaded leader of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), could well have made a career in football.
The union home ministry, in a first-of-its-kind initiative, has worked out a plan to tap sports talent in the northeast region and keep teens away from insurgency.
“This would also supplement the government’s efforts to wean the teenagers away from the cult of violence and hatred spread by naxal and other militant /insurgent groups,” said Shambhu Singh, joint secretary (northeast), MHA, according to the minutes of a discussion on the issue held on March 10, 2014, adding there was a large pool of untapped talent in the tribal belts of India and intra-tribe and inter tribe sports competitions can be a solid stepping stone for the youth. The northeastern states, which have had a long history of insurgent movements, have also been famed for raising some big names in sports like archery, boxing, long distance running, javelin throw, football, etc.
On a similar analogy, Lodha tribals in Odisha are keen long distance runners, while Hill Kharia-Mankadias, who are famed deer chasers, would shape up really well as sprinters.
Representatives of the paramilitary forces said such sports competitions would help security forces reach out to tribal areas, and build people to people contact.
The proposal first originated in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) with DG Jiji Thomson writing to Nirmaljeet Singh Kalsi, joint secretary, MHA, requesting the ministry to draw up a plan with the paramilitary forces under the latter’s community outreach programmes.