August 29, 2018
Bringing social peace through sports
With inspiration and direct encouragement from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Bangla Government has been organising two major sports-cum-cultural festivals for the youth in the regions neglected by the previous Left Front Government – Jangalmahal Utsav and Himal-Terai-Dooars Sports Festival.
These fests have helped in bringing the young people of the regions out of alienation, and into the mainstream.
Winds of change in Jangalmahal
In the tribal-majority region of Jangalmahal, comprising Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram, Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum districts, Maoist terror had for long pulled down progress. After the Trinamool Congress came to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee began a long-term programme of activities to build confidence and bring the regions back to the mainstream.
Being outdoors people, sports runs in the blood of tribal people, and the Government has taken full advantage of this, bringing a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence back among the youth of the region, who were particularly being influenced by militancy.
The first Jangalmahal Cup was organised in 2011, the year Mamata Banerjee came to power. From 2012, it became Jangalmahal Utsav, and it is now a cultural-cum-sporting extravaganza. It is held every January. Over the years, it has become an integral part of the region’s development.
Competitions in football, archery, kabaddi and other events take place as well as various cultural activities in which people of the tribal regions are encouraged to participate and give their best. The rural artisans of these districts participate in the festival, making, displaying and selling their artefacts and handicrafts.
The festival also acts as a scouting zone, where raw talent is identified and later polished at various coaching centres, many of which are run by the State Government for free.
Several good players have emerged from the sporting meets, who have successfully represented the State and India in archery, football and rugby.
Engaging in sporting and cultural activities has made the mostly tribal people of the region turn away from Maoist influences and violence, and embrace peace for a fulfilling life. The Chief Minister makes it a point every year to give away the prizes for the Jangalmahal Cup as well as be a part of the cultural festivities.
Himal Terai-Dooars Sports Festival
Another State Government-organised tournament that is being accorded wide acclaim for the last few years is the Himal Terai-Dooars Sports Festival. It is held in January across several towns in north Bengal, covering the districts of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The Chief Minister regularly attends the culminating prize-giving ceremony of this tournament too.
The sports festival is jointly organised by the Siliguri Police Commissionerate, West Bengal Sports Department and Darjeeling Police. Like at the Jangalmahal Utsav, various cultural activities take place here too.
Over the years, the Himal Terai-Dooars Sports Festival has emerged as the primary meeting place of the youth of the region, where they challenge each other in various sports. The spirit of competition has brought harmony to the region, by taking people’s minds away from negative thoughts.
Thus it can be said that the Trinamool Congress Government has achieved in bringing about social peace through sports. People are smiling across the State. Mamata Banerjee has delivered what the 34 long years of the Left Front Government could not.