Surrendered bird-killing airguns stoke national-level shooting ambitions in Arunachal students

Trained by soldiers of a battalion based nearby in Assam, the Changlang district authority aims to prepare students for national-level events

Trained by soldiers of a battalion based nearby in Assam, the Changlang district authority aims to prepare students for national-level events

The guns that once killed birds and small animals are helping train school children in an Arunachal Pradesh subdivision of the Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) to be shooters in competitive sports.

Jodwesa Yobin and Karina Tekseng, Class 8 students of KV at Miao, are getting closer to the bullseye at the 10-metre shooting range in their school.

A town of more than 6,000 people, Miao is the headquarters of Changlang district’s Miao subdivision and is located 350 km east of State capital Itanagar.

The two are yet to score a 10 per shot with either an air rifle or pistol but, according to the trainers – two soldiers from a company under a battalion of the Army based at Lekhapani in Assam – the average of 9 is a vast improvement in three months after the shooting range was opened.

Trained by soldiers of a battalion based nearby in Assam, the Changlang district authority aims to prepare students for national-level events. , Photo Credit: Rahul Karmakar

Their classmate Manisha Yadav has turned out to be a better shooter but knows she has to put in a lot more effort to realize her dream of representing India at an international event. Anshika Singh of Class 8 and Joy Rajbangshi of Class 7 harbor similar ambitions.

2,000 guns surrendered under ‘Airgun Surrender Campaign’

These children might not have dream of taking up shooting as a sport had the Changlang administration not put a few airguns surrendered by animal hunters to “non-killing” use. People in the State have deposited almost 2,000 airguns since March 2021 when the Pema Khandu government launched the Airgun Surrender Campaign to save wildlife.

“Hunting is a way of life for many in Arunachal Pradesh and children are often accustomed to firearms. So, we decided to keep the airguns at a shooting range where people can satisfy their urge to shoot but at a paper target,” Sunny K. Singh, the district’s Deputy Commissioner told The Hindu,

He was the Subdivisional Magistrate of Miao when an unused room of the KV was turned into a 10-m rifle shooting range, the first of its kind in Arunachal Pradesh.

The shooting range, renovated under the guidance of local MLA and Minister Kamlung Mossang, was started on March 10 with the collaboration of five schools. The local authority spent about ₹4 lakh to renovate the room and procure paper targets, bullets and two air rifles, two pistols and an airgun.

Guns for non-killing use: People in the State have deposited almost 2,000 airguns since March 2021 when the Pema Khandu government launched the Airgun Surrender Campaign to save wildlife.

Guns for non-killing use: People in the State have deposited almost 2,000 airguns since March 2021 when the Pema Khandu government launched the Airgun Surrender Campaign to save wildlife. , Photo Credit: Rahul Karmakar

“We kept the sustainability of the shooting range in mind to involve the KV and the Army, which is providing two soldiers to teach at least five children per two-hour sessions after school on weekdays,” Mr. Singh said. The shooting range offers two sessions on Sundays.

“It is too early to think in terms of maintenance and there are enough bullets and paper targets to last a few months. When the time comes, the KV and the district administration would be handling the upkeep of the shooting range,” Prabhu Nath Singh, the principal of KV Miao said.

Apart from the expensive Olympics-grade rifles and pistols procured by the Changlang administration, the shooting range has about 45 airguns surrendered by the local hunters. These are mostly used by non-students who shoot for recreation.

For some children regular at the school shooting range, the prospect of shooting with “real guns” at an Army shooting range is an added attraction.

“We plan to take them to our practice range. Some of them may be inspired to join the armed forces too,” a soldier-trainer said.

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