An incident of gang rape and murder perturbed this father of an eight-year-old, who now prepares girls to be self-reliant by imparting ‘unarmed martial arts’ training. This karate instructor believes that girls can be their own saviors.
“To protest and resist injustice is every girls’ right,” says Kaushav Sanyal, a karate instructor, who works with West Bengal National Volunteer Force as a constable. He gives martial arts training to the new joiners of West Bengal State Police, and is presently posted at Massanjore in Jharkhand.
With an objective to groom self-confidence in girls, Sanyal introduced ‘Mission Swayamsiddha’ on 14 December 2015, where he began imparting self-defence training to girls of several schools, colleges of Birbhum, Hooghly and Burdwan districts.
So far he has trained over 50,000 girls for free.
Under this mission, schoolgirls from Class 7 to final-year college students are given basic self-defence training. It includes how to release one’s self, if held from behind, without using strength; hitting weak spots and making the perpetrator senseless by touching certain pressure points on the body. “Defend yourself first. This is how a girl can protect herself from such an encounter,” says the 42-year-old karate instructor.
What moved his consciousness? Narrating the sordid tale, Sanyal tells The Better India on one ill-fated night, a feral incident struck at Kamduni in South 24-Pargana in 2013, when a girl student of Class 9 was returning home from tuition. She was intercepted by four men who dragged her to the nearby bush, raped her and killed her. “The case is subjudice and the culprits are yet to be hanged,” Sanyal laments.
As crimes against young women are on the rise, Sanyal believes in equipping the girls with a set of self-defence skills.
Making of a fighter
Born on 26 June 1978, Sanyal was brought up at Tarakeswar in Hooghly by his father, Bimal Sanyal, who had also served the police and his mother, Bandana, a housewife.
After completing his schooling in 1996, he went on to complete his Bachelor of Arts under Burdwan University in 1999.
Under the mentorship of Jalodhar Santra, he took his first lesson in martial arts at the age of 14. He then moved to Kamarkundu for progressive technique 3 years later. He attended Kung Fu classes at Netaji Bhawan, Kolkata, between 2004 and 2008. During the same period, he learnt advanced karate styles from the International Sho-To-Kan Karate Federation in Burdwan.
Holder of the fifth Dan Black Belt (Italy and USA), Sanyal has won many gold medals — the State Karate Championship held at Sheoraphuli in 1996; the National Karate Championship in Sikkim, 2006; the National Muay Thai Championship-2018, Guwahati under 60-70kg weight category; and the National Martial Arts Games and Festival, Guwahati in September 2018. He has also recently appeared for the sixth Dan Black Belt test in Manipur, where he displayed Goju Singh Kai style of martial arts. The results are awaited.
Between 2006 and 2013, Sanyal searched for jobs. He finally joined the police service as a trainee at Kalyani Training Centre in North 24-pargana district on 14 December 2014. His first posting was at Chinsurah Police Line on 3 March 2015.
Kaushav married in June 2012 and was blessed with a baby girl.
Fight like a girl
When starting Mission Swayamsiddha, he found it difficult to convince the girls’ parents. So, he decided to approach girl schools for a three-day self-defence workshop. Srinanda High School, Bolpur, was the first to endorse his proposal.
“The period next to tiffin-break was given to me. It was a 50-minute session with 350 girls who were ready to take karate lessons,” recalls Kaushav with a smile.
The wings of mission Swayamsiddha gradually spread from Birbhum, Hooghly to Burdwan districts of West Bengal. Girls of nearly 40 schools, colleges in Birbhum district have received combat training without arms. Around 30 schools in Hooghly and 25 schools in Burdwan district have tied up with the mission Swayamsiddha. Teachers of many schools have also stepped forward to partake in training sessions.
Some of the major institutes in Birbhum district are Bolpur Purnidevi Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Bolpur Girls, Goalpara High School, Karidhya Vidya Niketan. Helan Girls School, Krishnanagar Rammohun Balika Vidyalaya, Tarekeswar Balika Vidyalaya, Ramnagar High School are from Hooghly district while Vhediya Girls School, Guskara Girls School, Hatgobindopur College are from Burdwan district.
Amrita Mishra, a student of Purnidevi Mahila Mahavidyalaya, is now taking private coaching from Sanyal, says that the three-day workshop at Swayamsiddha needs in-depth practice at home. The workshop teaches you how to defend in an attack, though it’s not a complete karate course. “I completed my course this year starting in January 2015. The course has various stages. Each stage changes the colour of my belt. It includes white, red, orange, yellow, green, purple, purple-strip, brown, brown-strip, brown-gold and black. I achieved my black belt in martial arts,” shares Amrita.
On 23 January 2021, he introduced another mission for married women, known as ‘Mission Ananya’. Only 26 members are being trained under this mission at present. Speaking to The Better India, Paromita Dutta Roy (29), mother of a 3-year-old daughter, says that she always wanted to learn martial arts since her childhood but couldn’t do so. She joined Ananya just four months after her baby was born in September 2018.
“The self-defence techniques taught by our trainer have come in handy for many girls and women. Now, we can move around fearlessly. Every girl should learn self-defence. This not only develops physical strength but also makes one mentally stronger. I gained my self-confidence after training,” says the mother.
Paromita went on to bag a silver medal in the State Competition in Asansol. She also won a gold medal in the 56kg-weight category in Guwahati. She is now preparing to represent India at the seventh International Karate Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the end of March this year. Though, chances of the event being delayed due to the ongoing pandemic are high.
Reaching out to all the girl students of Bengal is what Sanyal aims for next. His ‘mantra’ for every new student is – “Defend yourself first, attack, if necessary, like a fierce tiger.”
If you would like a lesson in self-defence, call Kaushav Sanyal – 7679116827.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)