Some Birhor young people are learning about competition through a boxing instruction program in one of their communities. The Dhanbad District Amateur Boxing Association, located in the Dhanbad district of India’s Jharkhand state, is providing instruction, gloves, head-guards, and punching bags for the student boxers in Chalkari, a Birhor village.
Paritosh Kumar, the boxing coach, feels the Birhor kids will make great competitive boxers—they will be stronger and more adept at it than kids from the cities, he believes. He apparently has altruistic feelings toward them. “I chose the Birhor children because they are the least educated and deprived,” he said. “I want to help them in getting noticed and bring them onto the map of India through boxing.”
The students are evidently thrilled at the prospect of being able to make a name for themselves in the boxing ring. “We learn boxing in the mornings and evenings. This is going to help us move ahead in life,” said Mahesh, a student in Chalkari.
Birhor parents are pleased at the advantage their children are being given. One local Birhor man told the press, “our children are studying and also learning the sport of boxing. Such things were not there earlier. It feels very good.”
One of the news stories on the boxing Birhors includes a brief, televised news clip that shows the coach teaching his students in the village how to box properly. The television narrator comments that “fighting for survival is what life is all about if you’re poor and marginalized.” The Birhor want to fight their way out of poverty, she says.
The coach intends to guide his budding fighters to train for district and state boxing competitions. If properly instructed in competitive boxing, they should do well, he says. Neither the coach nor the media covering the story appear to be aware of the traditional Birhor avoidance of competition, an important aspect of their peacefulness according to an ethnography by Adhikary.