How do you rehabilitate an athletic rebel who learnt to handle an assortment of weapons before he turned 10? Channel his energy into a sport that can use his ability to hurl grenades accurately.
Monit Phonglo, 17, has made it to the Assam handball team, which leaves for the 35th junior boys’ championship at Indore. He is a member of a tribal militant outfit named Dima Halam Daogah-Nunisa (DHD-N).
Monit was one of several minors DHD-N had recruited for odd jobs and subversive strikes on unsuspecting security forces.
Frustration began seeping into their psyche when the outfit declared ceasefire in 2003, the ground rules requiring its members to be in designated camps. “Dimasas (a hill tribe) have traditionally been athletic. We did not want these hyperactive boys to waste their abilities. So we directed their energies to a range of sporting activities within the camps,” DHD-N chairman Dilip Nunisa told HT from Diphu, 271 km southeast of Guwahati.
Monit’s throwing — he attributes his accuracy to lobbing grenades — got him to the district sub-junior team. “He just required a few technical corrections,” said Assam handball coach Dibakar Sarma, adding the team has pinned its hopes on the teen rebel.
Monit isn’t the only one. DHD-N ‘sergeant major’ Rinku Piruwasa, 22, was in the Indian throwball team that won gold defeating Sri Lanka at an international championship in Dubai last year. The outfit’s female members — Dorodi Kharigapsa and Pranamika Nunisa — also made it to the women’s team that lost to Sri Lanka in the final of that championship.
In certain cases, the past has caught up with the rebels. DHD-N ‘lance corporal’ Naikhlai Dimasa, for instance, is unlikely to play soccer after allegedly being tortured by the 9 Madras Regiment following a 'misunderstanding’.
“He was regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in eastern India,” said Nunisa. He, however, said such hiccups have not dissuaded his group from tying up with National Institute of Sports to tap sporting talent across Dima Hasao.