How the last frisbee disrupts ethnic divisions in Assam | | India Controversial Issues

Chirang, Assam, India – Swmkwr Brahma doesn’t say much, but when someone says “frisbee”, his eyes light up and he starts talking about the unconnected game that has devastated Assam province in Chirang.

The 23-year-old started playing “The Ultimate” (the ultimate frisbee) when the game, with its running lines and track and field – was first introduced to Chirang in 2015.

Six years later, Brahma is now teaching children and there are more than 4,000 active players in 100 villages around Chirang, including Brahma village, Aiechara.

Chirang has a racial history, he says. “A lot of players from one place,” he says.

Chirang pose players and their frisbees after the final game [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

Although the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI) was surprised by the large number of players from Chirang.

Former UPAI president Manickam Narayanan said he did not expect to see more children coming to study games from the US and appeared to be “unknown” in India.

“ It was my first test with players from the countryside. As I teach these young people, I have also learned a lot from them, ”said Narayanan in Al Jazeera.

Before Chirang, he had worked in 20 cities as a player and mentor. But Chirang’s interest, he said, was contagious.

Rwmwi Basumatary, left, and Manickam Narayanan on the final tour of Chirang in 2017 [Handout via Al Jazeera]

So, what’s so special about a frisbee’s last?

“This game gave us a sense of relief and peace. Not many people in India know about frisbee, nor do they care about us, “Brahma told Al Jazeera.

The desire for peace

The Bodoland Territorial region of Assam, of which Chirang is a part, has a long history of armed rebellion and instability. The region – consisting of a mixed population of Indigenous Bodos, Assamese, Gorkhas, Bengali-speaking Muslims and tea tribes – has witnessed such violence in 1996, 1998 and 2014, as well as religious violence in 2012.

When the last frisbee entered, children and young people from all walks of life sang. But can a game tie everyone together?

“It’s hard to say this but the last one has given us the opportunity to play, connect and resolve our differences,” Brahma said.

Like many others of his generation, Brahma has grown up surrounded by violence. He is still afraid to tell what happened to his father, Angkw Brahma, 17 years ago when he was brutally beaten by security guards in the bush with his cattle.

“The military considered him a warrior. Because he could not speak Hindi and did not understand Bodo, he was tortured for hours in the bush. This put him in bed for several months,” said Swmkwr, who was only six years old at the time.

Swmkwr Brahma, on the right, standing next to his father Angkw Brahma, in a red chair, in front of their house in Aiechara [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

“I still remember when my father came home and was paralyzed, unable to stand or speak.”

Now in his 60s, Angkw Brahma does not go to the forest alone and works behind him.

His experience is not unique, for many years, the villagers paid a high price for the fighting between the local terrorists and the Indian security forces.

This is why Swmkwr and others believe that frisbee is the best sport in the region.

Flying discs are a dream come true

Many Chirang villages, such as Sumblibari, are located deep in the dense jungle and lack access to infrastructure. However Sumblibari has been playing high-profile games since its inception by the NGO, The Ant (Action Northeast Trust).

The trek to Sumblibari crosses potholes that run about 15km (9 miles) highway from the Kajalgaon provincial capital. Next, one had to cross the Nangalbhanga River by boat to Joypur.

Passengers had to wait about 20-30 minutes to board a single national boat – made up of two sailors and a ticket collector – to cross the river.

Nangalbhanga national boat saves rural Sumblibari and surrounding areas [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

From Joypur to Sumblibari, a distance of 10km (6 miles), one has to walk or bank kindly to another traveler with two wheels to climb the narrow road.

Once in Sumblibari, the laughter and cheating of the youngsters enjoying their final games makes the trip even more rewarding. This takes place in the various villages of Chirang almost all afternoon.

Even the plague of coronavirus, players from various villages, some of them just reach through rivers like Aie, Nangalbhanga and Lankar in boats, making sure their game is not difficult.

This commitment is what enabled the two teams from here to play in the 2018 regional tournament in western Gujarat, as well as the 2020 citizens in Karnataka.

The frisbee transformation in Chirang has already been welcomed by other countries.

During his 2018 visit to Chirang, Daniel Rule, an Australian sports assistant and director, said he was “immediately impressed by the skills the local players developed”.

Rule, who took part in 14 international competitions, spent a few days in Chirang to train rural youth at the invitation of the NGO, The Ant.

The children of the village of Thuribari are learning to play the last frisbee [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

New from Olympic glory – thanks to Lovlina Borgohain bronze boxing – Assam hopes to set a new record with the frisbee, which could possibly head to the 2028 Olympic Games.

“Jiset Nazary, the leader of Sumblibari, says:” The great Frisbee has brought art and instinct to our young people.

In a village near Thuribari, Pungbili Basumatary, a 19-year-old college student, spends most of her morning teaching children in the frisbee.

Pungbili and 17-year-old Sonali Ray became Chirang’s “star players” when they arrived at the national team, which was due to take part in the Sweden World Cup in July 2020.

However, the coronavirus prevented the girls from going.

“Yes, everyone calls us stars now,” he laughs.

Pungbili Basumatary, on the right, with his parents in their Thuribari home [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

Pungbili said he and others were concerned about their future in a poor area. “We don’t have anything here. There is no hospital, no college, ”he says.

It is 30km (18 miles) from Thuribari to get to the hospital and the number of those who have dropped out of school and college in the area is very high because parents cannot afford to send their wards to towns and cities.

Pungbili himself travels 25km (15 miles) daily to attend college in the village of Bengtol.

In these difficult situations, it is said that it is a frisbee game that has given meaning to young people. About 160 young people from the Thuribari region play the final frisbee.

Why, not any other game?

According to Pungbili, kids here love sports, especially football, but the “spirit” in frisbee has proven to be a game changer for players.

Chirang players take a few minutes to discuss their game [Maitreyee Boruah/Al Jazeera]

In the end it depends on the “spirit level” or “game spirit” that sets the stage for each player’s game. It is divided into five categories – knowledge of rules and regulations, faults and physical contact (unlawful), impartial attitudes, positive attitudes and self-control (mentally and physically), and communication.

Rwmwi Basumatary of The Ant says: “This writing has fostered competition and respect among players on and off the field.”

Ultimate frisbee has no competitors and the spirit (on a scale of one to four) is given by opponents. It is a mix of men and women equals between men and women in each group.

“Following the same spirit, groups (20 members each) in Chirang have two men, three religions, three villages, three groups and four languages,” says Kwmdwh Basumatary from Sumblibari village. Kwmdwh has already played international.

According to him, laws and regulations have helped to bridge the gap between the armed forces. “There was much animosity and suspicion between the various peoples. Frisbee breaks those walls, one game at a time, ”says Kwmdwh.

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