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In 1908

This article has been extracted from



Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Head quarters of the Tahsil of the .same name in the Stiratgarh iiizdf/iat of the State of Bikaner, Rajputana, situated in 29° 35' N. and 74° 20' E., on the left bank of the Ghaggar river, and on the Jodhpur-Blkaner Railway, 144 miles north-east of Bikaner city. Population (1901), 1,303. There is a post ofifice, a vernacular school attended by 76 boys, and a railway dispensary ; but the place is famous for its fort. Its old name was Bhatner, ' the fortress ' or ' the habitation ' of the Bhattis, who were originally Bhati Rajputs, and who after becoming Musalmans were called Bhattis. It was styled Hamimangarh in 1805, because it was captured by the Bikaner 1 )aibar in that year on a Tuesday, a day sacred to the monkey-god. Bhatner is frequently mentioned by the Musahiian historians ; it has been identified as the Bhatia captured by Mahmud of (lliazni about 1004, but this is doubtful. In 1398 it was taken by Timur from a Bhati chief named Diil (Jhand, but appears to have been restored to the Bhatis on their giving a girl of their tribe in marriage to the conqueror. In 1527 it is said to have been ac(iuired by the Rathor Rajputs, and was retaken from them by Kamran, the brother of Humayiin, in 1549. It was recovered by the Bikaner Raja about 1560, and held for about twenty years, when it was seized by the Silbahddr of Hissar. The possession of the fort seems to have changed hands frequently, till in 1805 it was, after a siege of five months, captured by the Bikaner Darbar from a Bhatti chief named Zabita Khan.

[H. M. Elliot, Histoi-y of India, vols, ii and iii (1869).]

Dronacharya Hostel

Nergish Sunavala, Sep 18 2016 : The Times of India, Photos by Uma Kadam

RD Singh

This Rajasthan town is changing the face of para sports in India

At RD Singh's free academy, the differently abled run up sand hills with tyres and hack at shrubs to build biceps. While the gym may be improvised, the results are not

Bhalaram was about 10 when he came across a stray grenade in his family's field in Ra jasthan, thought it was a toy and began fiddling with the pin. The ensuing blast left him with a gnarled left leg and a bloody stump in place of a hand.“I didn't think he'd be able to do anything with his life,“ mutters his father Brijlal.

He has three other sons but the sky-blue wall of his home is lined with pictures of only Bhalaram's medals and certificates. There's one of him winning a gold for long jump in the 2016 Nationals Para Athletics Championships; and another of him sporting two bronze medals for 200m and 400m in the 2015 Ghaziabad competition.

The turning point for Bhalaram was meeting coach Ripu Daman Singh at Hanumangarh's Government College in 2013.Singh is famous in his hometown for his ability to transform underprivileged, differently-abled youngsters into medal magnets.On the day we arrived in Hanumangarh, some 400-odd km from Jaipur, his former student Devendra Jhajharia had just made history by winning his second gold at the Paralympics, days after another ex-student Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal.

But instead of celebrating, the 62-year-old coach was battling disillusionment. His prize student in the javelin throw category , Sundar Singh Gurjar, who was throwing over 70m during practice sessions -Jhajharia's record-breaking throw was 63.97m -got disqualified after arriving late to the event. This was after the boy succumbed to family pressure and took another coach to Rio despite training with Singh from December last year.

Gurjar's one-two punch of betrayal has left Singh wondering if he should quit his calling.“What if I train another Paralympian and he also runs off with another coach?“ he asks. But two days after the fiasco at the Paralympics, his spirits seem to be reviving. After all, a new generation of paralympians is waiting to be trained and who knows his prodigal son might even return.

Singh's tryst with differently abled athletes began in 1997, when he came across a teenaged Jhajharia at a school competition. As a boy , Jhajharia touched a live electric cable while climbing a tree and his left hand had to be amputated below the elbow. Since he had no idea that para championships existed till '99, Singh initially coached the talented youngster to compete with able-bodied athletes.“He came first in Rajasthan University in javelin-throw and bagged the bronze in an all India inter-university meet,“ recalls Singh. “It created a huge uproar.People found the spectacle of a disabled athlete throwing a javelin better than his able-bodied com petitors fascinating.“

Singh credits Jhajharia's gold medal at the 2004 Paralympics with changing the face of para sports in India. “The government's eyes and ears opened,“ says Singh. The gold also won Singh the coveted Dronacharya award in 2006, for excellence in sports coaching, and attracted a stream of poor-but-talented ablebodied and para athletes to his free training academy and boarding house, now called `Dronacharya Hostel'.

Jhajharia recalls his former coach's philanthropy fondly.“More than a good coach, he was a good human being,“ he says, “and his goal was to make us better people.“ However Jhajharia left Hanumangarh in 2004. So it's his new coach, Sunil Tanwar, who he credits for his Rio triumph.

After Jhajharia, Singh trained about 30 differently-abled youngsters including Jagseer Singh, gold medallist in the 2010 Asian Para Games, and Sandeep Singh Maan, who bagged the silver twice in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Para Games. His drawing room now doubles up as a shrine to his coaching career -there's a floorto-ceiling glass cabinet crammed with trophies and three walls lined with photographs. His success rate is so remarkable that Deepa Malik refers to him as the coach with a “Midas touch“.

Singh's inexpensive training techniques vary from making athletes race up and down sand hills -a tyre tied to their waist -to making them bend and drag a tiny stick continuously along the ground to strengthen their thigh muscles. “Do this for 20m and you won't be able to move,“ Singh promises. Jhajharia spent hours hacking down dry shrubs with an axe to strengthen his good arm; while Bhalaram uses a modified bench press -his stub tied to the barbell. After following such a gruelling regiment, those that don't make it as athletes easily bag jobs in the army and police.

Occasionally, Singh comes across talented sportswomen. But just as they start winning international championships their families marry them off and their in-laws prevent from competing.Athletes like Malik, a 45-year-old mother who has her family's full support, are rare. Singh met her at a Gandhinagar Sports Authority of India camp in 2009 and was bowled over by her sunny disposition and indomitable spirit. He coached her for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. “It was always her dream to win an Olympic medal and now she has,“ he says.

A few years ago, Singh discovered another potential Paralympian in a small village, Rang Mahal, outside of Hanumangarh. Santosh, a polio victim with a hand and leg deformity , caught the attention of her school coach, Mohanlal Kukana, when she was only 11. “I was trying to select the school athletics team when she came to me and said, `I can do a better long jump.'“ Kakuna recalls. “I said, `What will you do? You don't have one leg.'“ Santosh made the team.

Kakuna alerted Singh to her potential and the teenager went to live at Singh's hostel in Hanumangarh. She's won nine gold medals at Nationals Para Athletics Championships and fell just 5cm short of qualifying for the long jump in the recent Rio Paralympics. At a recent ceremony, organized to felicitate Singh, her former school principal and coach held her up as a shining example of what can be achieved through perseverance.

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