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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Statehood strife & sloth steamroll sports dreams

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, April 28: In the late 1950s, when Darjeeling had a population of 60,000, it boasted of 18 lawn tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, a mini racecourse, along with more than a dozen badminton and table tennis facilities.
Today, when the population has tripled, there is neither a golf course nor a horse course. The town has only four lawn tennis courts to show off and two of them belong to educational institutions.
Hayden Hall and the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club are the only places where few people can play badminton. There is hardly any place to play table tennis.
In the past, international players like Prakash Padukone — the first Indian to win the All England Badminton Championship — had visited Darjeeling to play at the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Public Hall. National football teams like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and clubs from Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan used to regularly participate in hill tournaments.
“Records show that in 1926, the Gymkhana Club had 16 lawn tennis courts,” said Manoj Brahmin, the assistant secretary of the club.
Roshankant Ghisingh, a resident of Darjeeling who had represented Delhi in the national table tennis tournament in 1989, said: “During our days, we could play table tennis at District Cultural Institute, Buddha Singh Sporting Club, Station Club, Hayden Hall, Nripendra hall and Gymkhana Club. After football, the most popular sport in the hills was table tennis,” he said.
In the late 1970s, the Gymkhana Club had hosted the junior nationals in table tennis.
“If we talk about football, the then Darjeeling team (in the late 1970s) could beat heavyweights like Mahindra and Mahindra. We used to be hired to play for teams in Bhutan. In 1982, we were paid Rs 5,000 for a single match in Bhutan. The standards have gone down to such an extent that Darjeeling teams now have to hire players from outside the region,” said Naresh Nath Pradhan, an ex-player.
The violent Gorkhaland agitation that started in 1986 and the general apathy of the local people have led to a complete death of the sports culture in Darjeeling.
The bungalow at the nine-hole golf course was burnt down during the agitation. The last contest at the Lebong racecourse was on October 31, 1984. The Brigade of Gurkhas Gold Cup has become erratic and failed to attract national teams after the agitation.
The place where the golf course was situated has been bulldozed, as the DGHC wanted to set up a helipad. Following concerns from environment organisations, the plan was shelved but the damage has been permanently done.
During the agitation, paramilitary forces were stationed at the Gymkhana Club and the Nripendra hall.
“Wherever we go, many old timers still recount the rich sporting legacy of the town. Players from the hills have better physique but they have not been able to shine because of lack of sporting facilities,” said Ghisingh.
But at a time when everything seems to be lost, the Gymkhana Club has provided a silver lining.
“We have to revive our lost glory. We have spruced up our tennis court. A tennis tournament will be organised and players from Bhutan, Nepal, Delhi, Bangalore and other parts of the country will be participating in it,” said Madan Subba, the finance co-ordinator of the Gymkhana Club. The tournament to mark the centenary celebrations of the club will start on April 30.
“We have also submitted a proposal to the state government to set up a mini sporting complex at the club at an estimated cost of Rs 90 lakh,” said Subba.
“If the project is sanctioned, we will open the facilities for the public at a very nominal rate,” he added.
The little sport facilities left in the hills are now with the elite educational institutions, but they are out of bounds for the common man. “Many talents are disappearing for no fault of theirs,” said Ghisingh.
3 years on, Idol sings to hill tune- Prashant dreams of Bollywood
Bejoy Gurung, TT, Gangtok, April 28: Gorkhaland is a must for Indian Gorkhas, Prashant Tamang said, although he thinks that the renewed statehood movement in the Darjeeling hills should not be credited to him.
At a time when his co-finalist and close friend Meiyang Chang is ready to hit the silver screen with the Sahid Kapoor starrer Badmaash Company next month, the Indian Idol 3 winner is about to complete his second Nepali feature film, though of a much lesser budget and reach.
But as Tamang, a Calcutta Police constable, puts it, he is taking life step by step.
“I am taking life step by step and everything will happen in a gradual manner. Opportunities and good results will come with patience and hard work,” Tamang told The Telegraph during a shoot at MG Marg here a few days back.
Today Tamang was in Majitar, 36km from Gangtok and one of the many locales in Sikkim where Angalo Yo Maya Ko, the Nepali feature film, is being shot. Almost 90 per cent shooting has been completed, said Kathmandu-based director Vinod Sereng.
The film has a budget of around Rs 30-35 lakh, said the director. Tamang is playing the lead role besides singing a couple of tracks in the film including the title song. His character is a spoilt brat who later turns into a new leaf.
“This is my second film, and my first, Gorkha Paltan, is scheduled to be released in Kathmandu in April-May,” said Tamang, who is keen on Bollywood. “It is not easy but I will not stop dreaming, and will continue trying to get into Bollywood,” he said.
Asked about his experience after Indian Idol 3, Tamang said he had kept himself busy with film projects and shows. “I was mostly engaged in shootings and there are two-three more projects (in the anvil) but I have not finalised them yet,” he said.
“The most important thing for me is to continue getting the same love that I had received from the people earlier,” said Tamang, who visits Darjeeling frequently, but does not hold many shows there. “However, I have a show in Mirik.”
The Idol-turned-film hero does not shy away from talking about Gorkhaland. He, however, said the statehood movement should not be credited to him. “There was great unity among the hill people during my Indian Idol challenge and such unity should be maintained to take the movement ahead,” he said. “Gorkhaland is must for the identity of the Indian Gorkhas…Everyone knows about the Indian Gorkhas, the only thing needed is to strengthen our identity.”
In 2007, the Morcha was born after its president Bimal Gurung cashed in on the strong anti-Subash Ghisingh sentiment that swept through the Darjeeling hills during the campaign launched to help Tamang win Indian Idol 3. The GNLF chief had refused to publicly back Tamang even as the entire Gorkha community in Bengal and across the country put its collective might behind the singer from Darjeeling.
Since then, political equations have changed. In 2007, Gurung and his supporters had shouted pro-Pawan Chamling slogans much to Ghisingh’s chagrin. Three years later, the Morcha supporters are no longer eulogising the Sikkim chief minister, but accusing him of doing little to help the outfit attain Gorkhaland.
But does Tamang, still consider Sikkim his second home? “No. Rather, both Sikkim and Darjeeling are my only homes,” Tamang said.
Director Sereng complimented Tamang’s acting skills. “We hope to wrap up the shooting by the second week of May,” said Sereng.
The director said the film was shot in various parts of Sikkim like Aritar, Namchi and Rabongla, besides Gangtok, Majitar. He said it would be released in September with the premiere in Gangtok. Most of the cast in the film are from Sikkim and Darjeeling.
Remove SDO cry in Left hub
TT, Siliguri, April 28: More than 200 CPM supporters today demonstrated in front of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, demanding the immediate removal of the subdivisional officer who had allegedly ordered police to batoncharge those blocking the SMC’s entrance yesterday.
Using loudspeakers, the protesters, who included CPM district leaders and most of the councillors, began the sloganeering at 10.30am. They also demanded action against the police officers carrying out the lathicharge and accused the mayor and other Congress leaders of inciting the law enforcers to attack the “peaceful demonstrators” during yesterday’s 12-hour strike.
Today, policemen armed with batons were deployed at the site and keeping a watch over the situation.
“We want immediate removal of the SDO, Rajat Saini, who had ordered the police to lathicharge the peaceful demonstration of the councillors and the CPM workers in front of the SMC without any provocation,” said Mukul Sengupta, a CPM councillor and the Siliguri zonal committee secretary. “The mayor and other councillors from the Congress and the Trinamul Congress are responsible for instigating the police and the administration against us. We condemn it and will carry out our protests across the subdivision unless our demands (of transferring the SDO and taking steps against the police) are met.”
The CPM claimed that 19 of its supporters had been injured in the lathicharge.
“After the incident, we perceived that the SDO had reached the spot with a plan and ordered the lathicharge without any provocation. It is an irony that the mayor denied having any clue about the police action,” said Jibesh Sarkar, a state committee member of the CPM.
Today, inspector general of police K.L. Tamta said he was expecting a report from the additional superintendent of police, Siliguri. “Once I receive it, I will forward it to the appropriate quarters.” Saini said he had sent a report of the incident to the district magistrate yesterday.
At the SMC today, the Congress and Trinamul Congress councillors passed the first logo of the civic body. The Opposition Left councillors boycotted the meeting.
“We had invited designs for the logo last month and got response from artists from across north Bengal. A seven-member committee formed for this purpose finalised the logo,” said Nantu Pal, the deputy mayor. “We will publish it on May 9 on the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.”

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