In 2013, a 20-year-old college student was gang raped and murdered in Kamduni village near Kolkata in West Bengal. She was on her way home when the six men abducted her and took her to a deserted factory.
The gut-wrenching incident shook Kaushav Sanyal, a West Bengal National Volunteer Force (WBNVF) constable and a father to a daughter. "It shook me internally to know how women in my district are suffering due to safety concerns, and many such incidents are often not discussed," Sanyal said.
Being a karate instructor, he understood that the best way to ensure women safety is by training them to defend themselves. "It crossed my mind that one of the most powerful tools that we could provide to women for their safety would be self-defence training. After such training, they could fight back whenever they're attacked and protect themselves," Sanyal told The Logical Indian.
In 2015, he started a mission under which he would provide self-defence training to girls free of cost in several schools and colleges situated in Birbhum, Hooghly and Burdwan districts of West Bengal. To date, he has trained over 50,000 girls.
At present, Sanyal is a karate instructor and provides martial arts training to the new joiners in the West Bengal State Police and is now posted at Massanjore in Jharkhand.
The 42-year-old believes that providing self-defence training to women increases their confidence and helps them become their own saviours under challenging encounters. He recalls an incident that made him realise how these training sessions empowered girls.
A girl from an interior village in Burdwan district faced eve-teasing when she travelled for her coaching classes. One evening, when the group of boys approached her, she attacked in defence. After that incident, the girl travelled to her coaching classes without any fear and continued her studies.
Sanyal started training in martial arts and karate when he was just 14. He says that he has been enthusiastic about learning various martial art forms from a very young age. He learnt Kung Fu at Netaji Bhawan, Kolkata, between 2004 and 2008. Apart from this, he has also learnt advanced karate styles from the International Sho-To-Kan Karate Federation in Burdwan.
He has won many competitions and participated in state and national level championships as well. Sanyal has won gold medals in various championships, some of which include the State Karate Championship held at Sheoraphuli in 1996, the National Karate Championship in Sikkim in 2006, and the National Muay Thai Championship in 2018. Recently, Sanyal appeared for the sixth Dan Black Belt test in Manipur. He aspires to participate at international levels as well.
Talking about his training sessions with The Logical Indian, Kaushav Sanyal said, "Initially, when I started providing training to girls, their parents were not very convinced about it. Most of them do not understand that being physically trained in martial arts will help their girl child when they would travel alone for studies or go out anywhere. That's when I thought of starting with schools and colleges so that I could reach more women. I took permission from the school authorities to conduct training sessions for at least 50 minutes during school hours. In this way, I conducted three days of training in various schools and colleges."
Sanyal conducted his first training session at Srinanda High School in Bolpur district. It received a good response with the participation of over 350 girl students. After seeing the response, he started similar sessions in the Birbhum, Hooghly and Burdwan districts of West Bengal.
According to Sanyal, around 30 schools in Hooghly, 25 schools in the Burdwan district have tied up with him for conducting training.
Many teachers have also contacted him to volunteer in his training sessions. As the crime reported against women is continuously on the rise, Sanyal feels that it has become crucial to train women in self-defence.
Sanyal believes that women should have access to self-defence training irrespective of their age or background.
In January 2020, he conducted his first workshop for homemakers and working women at Shanti Niketan in Kolkata. "I want to impact as many women as possible through Mission Swayamsiddha. Even though I've reached out to more girls in schools and colleges till now, I plan to train homemakers and working women as well. I want to make whatever small difference I could make in this society through these training sessions and empower women," Sanyal said.