Bhaba Kalita lost his father to militancy. His elder brother was shot from point-blank range and could only walk after two years of rehabilitation.A former shooter from Assam, Kalita has seen militancy ravage his family, but the 37-year-old's never-say-die attitude has made him more determined to fight the divisive forces in a novel way.
"For the people of the northeast, any gun is a killing machine because everyone has witnessed mayhem and terror. We have formed a group in the Assam Rifle Association, which wants to change that mindset and also show youngsters a new way of life," says Kalita, who is here as a match referee for the Commonwealth Shooting Championships.
"We devised a plan to take shooting to remote areas of Assam like Kokrajhar, NC Hills and Tinsukhia, areas worst affected by militancy and wean away youngsters from pursuing the wrong path. We've converted a Toyota Innova into a mobile shooting range, equipping it with a Laporte trap shooting machine and a few shotguns.
"We also carry Sius Ascor machines for 10m air rifle and give demonstration in various schools across the state. The vehicle is equipped with a generator to operate all these machines as electricity is a problem in the remote areas.
"Thanks to the initiative, we have 183 shooters in Guwahati and 486 all over the state. Some of them are boys from surrendered militant groups and a couple of them, including Gebla Basumatary, are now national level shooters," he says.
"For the last three years, we are sending strong contingents to the National Championships and pre-nationals (GV Mavlankar) but not charging money. I don't want others to suffer the curse of militancy, like I did."
The mobile range is one small step in that direction.