75 year old Prakaso Tomar is such a good shooter that after she beats younger men in shooting competitions, they refuse to be photographed with her “You see my pictures. In most of them, there is no one else in the frame,” she told Yuvadesh with a big smile.
Her fame extends far beyond the village shooting range of Johri, her home. She is disliked by many of the men, and honoured by even more women in western Uttar Pradesh (UP). This region is North India’s badlands. Shooting is not a sport – its a life skill here. Guns are common, and so are gunfights to end arguments. And here, she is known as “shooter daadi”, who regularly wins medals and laurels across India.
At first glance, Tomar doesn’t look like a woman comfortable with a pistol. But a glance is all she needs to set a target and take a perfect shot.
|Shooter Dadi aka “PRAKASO TOMAR”|
How did she begin her tryst with the revolver?
She first visited the shooting range for her grandson, who’d expressed interest in the sport. Her grandson got her to the shooting range, and she showed a streak of beginner’s luck that made her coach believe that she was a natural. On her regular trips to the shooting range for her grandson’s practice, she began shooting with him. Soon, she was so good that her first few competitions saw her defeat a Delhi Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG). The cop was so embarrassed he left before the prize distribution ceremony!
Today, she’s a role model for local women in the male-dominated region, and there have been many stories of local women practicing shooting. In her words, shooting transcends the sport. “It is not a question of practicing shooting. It is a question of having the confidence to compete with men. For generations women here have had no voice. I am happy that my abilities with the gun has now forced the men folk in these parts to sit up and take notice of what we women are capable of, if given an opportunity.”
Shooting is today what the region is known for, because there’s nothing else of note. No pucca roads, no regular supply of water, and obviously a shortage of regular electricity. The shooting range came up in 1989, and was established by Rajpal Singh, honorary Sports Authority of India shooting coach. In the area’s love of guns, Rajpal saw the potential for marksmanship.
Over a 1000 people have been trained at the shooting range, most of whom are women today. Many of the great marksmen it has produced also seem to have benefited from the discipline involved. This includesRubi Tomar (Punjab Police), Seema Tomar and Varsha Tomar (Indian Army) and Shefali Tomar (University of Chandigarh), and Rajiv Jatav, the son of a brick-kiln worker (Central Reserve Police Force)