Haunted by Mahato surname, a 20-yr-old seeks escape in football

Fearing crowd trouble during the final — Mahato was in jail then — Dhriti’s school simply pulled him out of the match.

New Delhi | Updated: May 17, 2015 1:24 pm

By: Rajeeb Mukherjee

Dhritiprasad Mahato was eagerly waiting for the final of the football tournament to begin that summer afternoon.

A 10-day trip to Germany awaited the player of the tournament, organised by West Bengal Police to reach out to residents of the Maoist-hit Junglemahal area. And, it was Dhriti’s heroics under the bar that had brought his team this far. But then came the twist.

The Lalgarh Ramakrishna Vidyapith swept to glory, but without its star goalie. It was not injury that kept him out that Sunday afternoon in 2011, Dhriti says, it was his surname.

Dhriti is the eldest son of Chhatradhar Mahato, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday by a court in Midnapore for his role in the Maoist agitation in Lalgarh eight years ago.

Fearing crowd trouble during the final that Sunday — Mahato was in jail then — Dhriti’s school simply pulled him out of the match.

Today, this 20-year-old college student says that’s just one of the many blips that he has faced in life. Like being left out of the West Midnapore district team last year after making the cut in the selection trials. “None had an answer to why I was dropped,” Dhriti said.

For many others, it would have been the end. But Dhriti says he’s got his father’s “undying love” for the game.

“Had football not been there, we don’t know where we would have been,” Dhriti said, adding that he is only following the advice his father gave before being whisked away ? “keep practising hard, keep playing football”.

Football is everything, Dhriti says, for him and his younger brother Debiprasad, starting from early memories of their father taking them to the village playground.

Dhriti adds that his father was a “good footballer” and would teach his sons the game’s nuances “whenever he got time in between farming and looking after people’s welfare”.

After Mahato was arrested in 2009 for his role in the Lalgarh agitation, Dhriti says he has met his father only intermittently, for short durations.

And growing up without him in Lalgarh’s Amlia village, one of the most impoverished areas of West Bengal, has not been easy, he adds. “On one side was the Maoist movement and on the other, the strong police presence,” he said.

What made things worse for the brothers was the fact that their uncle, Sasadhar Mahato, was a well-known Maoist who was killed in a police encounter in 2011.

“It was football that kept us alive during immense hardship, poverty and the constant watch of security forces,” Dhriti said.

“Dhriti is very talented, but somehow he is under tremendous pressure all the time, and that affects his game,” said Jayanta Chaudhuri, a former club player who has been running football camps in Junglemahal and was one of the first to spot Dhriti’s talent.

”Being the eldest in the family, with his father in jail, means there are a lot of expectations on him. He realises he has to earn a living, keep the family together, but at the same time can’t stop playing football, because that is his life,” Chaudhuri, a health department employee, said.

The dilemma is evident when Dhriti says he dreams of becoming a professional footballer one day, but realises he “needs to start earning soon”.

In his father’s absence, it is his mother Niyati who looks after the family which owns a small patch of farm land.

“Their father wanted them to become footballers. That’s my wish as well. We don’t have much resources, but we want our sons to keep trying. I am there to look after the family,” Niyati said.

But that’s little consolation for Dhriti, a first-year graduation student at Lalgarh College, who has now enrolled himself for a computer course, hoping for a job as soon as possible. But whatever happens, he says, his heart will always be in football. “If only I could get some trials in Kolkata.”

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  1. A
    asit guin
    May 22, 2015 at 4:26 pm
    Be happy with this news . Chhatradhar Mahato was the epicenter of Lalgarh movement and hand in hand with Mamata Banerjee. He had made vast areas of Medinipur inaccessible for security personnel and had ushered in a reign of terror. Chhatradhar Mahato was the most recognized faces of the Lalgarh movement after Kishenji, who was killed in an encounter in forests of Buris (West Midnapore) on Nov 24, 2011. Present Chief Minister when she was in opposition had demanded release of Chhatradhar and had announced movements to repeal the UAPA act if her party comes to power. However it was her Police which framed charges under uapa act against Chhatradhar and earlier had shot dead Kishenji. The leaders of pro Maoist frontal organizations including Bandi mukti Committee has accused Chief Minister of Bengal of double standards and forgetting her promise as Opposition leader to repeal the UA(P)A Act. State Police during LF Govt had arrested Chhatradhar and had invoked UA (P) A against him and others. This decision has come as a shot in the arm for the decision of the then Left Govt to arrest the Maoist leader and charge him under UA (P) A. His one time allies, the Pro Maoist Intellegesia and the Maoist frontal organization had pointed out that it was Mamata who had gained most out of Lalgarh Movement and now his conviction had proved that she habitually does the opposition of her urances given before becoming Chief Minister . IT WAS CHHATRADHAR FOLLOWERS WHO HAD CARRIED OUT GYNESHWARI EXPRESS DERAILMENT, KILLING MORE THAN 148 PERSONS though by that time Mahato was already arrested by the Bengal CID . During Lalgarh agitation, more than 250 Left workers were martyred and PCPA headed by Chhatradhar was used as forefront to usher in anarchy in the Lalgarh and its vicinities by the Maoists who got able support from present CM Mamata Banerjee who had even pillion ridded his Motorcycle to travel to Maoist infested area to hold discussion with Maoists regarding their movement strategy .
    1. David Sudhakar
      May 17, 2015 at 5:51 am
      Very unfair and inhuman treatment to a son of our Country being punished for the mistakes of his parents.
      1. B
        May 21, 2015 at 7:10 am
        Nowhere does it seem that the surname haunts the young man. It shows that same ironic mentality of mediocre reporting that is evidenced when insinuating certain nuances while reporting say with some cricket playing kid with the surname Tendulkar. Feel sorry for the kid, though.
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