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Cops line up martial arts for schoolgirls

Calcutta police have offered martial arts training to schoolgirls in a city that ranks third in crimes reported against women. The message in the medium? Learning self-defence is now a necessity for girls.

Principals of 32 schools, four each under the eight Lalbazar divisions, met the police brass on Wednesday for a briefing on the first phase of Project Sukanya.

Sources said 20 girls from classes VIII, IX and XI in each of the 32 schools would be taught one out of seven diverse forms of martial arts over three months. Three classes each of an hour’s duration would be conducted in a week by master trainers who coach the cops for combat or experts within the police force.

“We shortlisted the schools keeping in mind our goal of benefiting students from all backgrounds. This module would be a value addition for students of schools where martial arts are already being taught. But for those who either cannot afford training and/or live in insecure surroundings, this project should make a big difference,” an officer in the police headquarters said.

Lorraine Mirza, principal of La Martiniere for Girls, is delighted the police have included her institution in the first phase of the project. “A short-term course will attract senior girls because they are otherwise so tied up that they cannot always make time for full-fledged training. A short course will teach them the basics and it always helps if you know how to defend yourself,” she said.

The school has compulsory karate lessons for classes III to VIII, but training is optional for the senior girls.

In a city where incidents of girl students being molested in pool cars or teased on the street have become common, guardians couldn’t be happier that the police have taken the initiative to teach them how to fight back.

“I am sure the girls are going to benefit from this. I will be less worried each time my daughters step out of home,” said a mother of two school-going daughters, one of them a teenager.

Dipanwita Roychowdhury, headmistress of Binodini Girls’ High School, said many of her students needed to know self-defence to attend school without the fear of being physically or verbally abused on the way. “It’s a great initiative by the police. Many of my girls travel alone and some of them cycle to school. Martial arts training will boost their confidence to travel alone.”

Aikido, judo, karate, wushu, taekwondo, wrestling and kickboxing are the martial arts that have been chosen for Project Sukanya, to be officially launched on February 24. Aikido, a Japanese martial art, is on the list because it is simple yet effective. “Our constables receive training in Aikido, among other martial arts. Some of our boys can train the students in Aikido when the masters are busy,” the officer said.

John Bagul, principal of South City International School, said he would prefer taekwondo for his students since they were already learning karate.