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Shooting Sports Liberate Women: A Tale of 2 Grandmothers in India

Shooting Sports Liberate Women: A Tale of 2 Grandmothers in India

Photo of Chandro Tomar, nicknamed Shooter Dadi (Grandmother), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Raju Jangid

Firearms can be “equalizers” in some self-defense situations, creating a balance of power on behalf of people in harm’s way who find themselves at a disadvantage. Firearms can also be “equalizers” in society. The knowledge of responsible firearms use—and particularly the practice of shooting sports—can have a healthy and empowering effect on people who may otherwise be marginalized. This particularly applies to women and to those considered elderly.

Shooting sports eliminate age and gender prejudices, giving people who may be told they “can’t” the opportunity to show their abilities.

Anti-gun advocates fail to recognize that clampdowns on firearms and ammunition will inevitably impede the progress that shooting sports bring to society.

Progress? Yes. While this idea may plunge some people into confusion, it is actually a fact that firearms and shooting sports can bring about progressive change in America and the world.

There is no greater example of this than the incredible story of the Tomar sisters-in-law of India—two elderly women who, spurred on by their love of shooting sports, achieved international recognition as sharpshooters and sparked a revolution for women’s rights in their community.

Chandro Tomar, 87, and Prakashi Tomar, 85, started target shooting as a hobby in their 60s and have since become champions—winning over 250 medals and trophies between them.

Both women were farmers from Johri, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. The region, known for its sugar cane, is very agricultural—and historically has been very repressive towards women. Village women were married as teenagers and not allowed to leave their homes; they spent their entire lives working in fields, cooking and doing chores.

The region in recent decades has had high crime rates, female infanticide and violent robberies.

This changed after Dr. Rajpal Singh decided to start up a local shooting range to teach youth how to shoot and help them get gun licenses.

However, nobody expected two village grandmothers to excel on the shooting range and become famous markswomen.   

Chandro, married at age 15, was not taught how to read or write and spent most of her life doing hard work on her family’s farm. She was 65 years old and had never touched a firearm when she accompanied her granddaughter to the local shooting range one day. Seeing her granddaughter having difficulty loading an air pistol, Chandro decided to help her. She loaded the pistol and took aim at the target. “Watch,” she told her granddaughter, and fired. To everybody’s shock, Chandro hit a perfect bull’s-eye. The instructor was impressed and invited her to train at the range. Although it was an unconventional and controversial hobby, Chandro decided to pursue it.

Prakashi, her sister-in-law, took up target shooting around the same time. A mother of eight, Prakashi escorted her granddaughter to the range and decided to try the pistol. She, too, hit a perfect bulls’-eye.

Afterwards, the two grandmothers became partners in target shooting. Despite their husbands’ disapproval and ridicule from fellow villagers, they became determined to master shooting as a sport. They completed farm chores earlier than usual, then would sneak away to go practice. Their children supported their interest and helped keep their shooting hobby a secret. Although they started out by hiding their medals and covertly entering competitions, they continued to shoot after their secret came out despite discrimination.

Since then, the two women have won a plethora of competitions and have defeated accomplished male professional shooters. Today, Chandro is best known by her nickname Shooter Dadi (Grandmother).

The two grandmothers are credited with inspiring positive social change in their community, beginning with their own families. Prakashi’s daughter Seema Tomar and two granddaughters became international shooters.

Seema, a Trap shooter, made history when she became the first woman from India to win a shotgun silver at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup.

Likewise, three of Chandro’s granddaughters have become professional shooters. Noting their success, local people began encouraging their daughters to take up target shooting and have begun sending girls to universities and academies to get more education. This is a landmark culture change, according to Seema.

“There has been a sea change,” she said in an interview, describing the social reform in their community. “To begin with, even I was not allowed to play the sport. My family was not keen to let me enter into a sport like shooting which is male dominated. But what my mother has done meant that I was able to assert myself. This meant that the other girls from the area were also able to be a part of this sport. Today, from 40 to 45 girls play at the international level. This is such an achievement

The changed gender dynamic in the village is bringing about positive results for the impoverished rural community, according to coach Neetu Sheoran.

“A few years ago, not many of the 25 girls training at the Johri Rifle Club range today would have been allowed to step out of home. Girls who have trained at the range have got jobs with the army, the air force and the border security force,” he said.

The two grandmothers have since become the subject of a Bollywood biopic film and are outspoken advocates for women’s rights.

“I like to advocate for one thing: Save girls,” Chandro said, in an interview. “Let them study and encourage them to play, too. Women are doing very well in sports. They are bringing glory to their country, to their parents and they will rise even higher.”

Prakashi said she hopes the new film “inspires more women to follow their dreams.”

The story of the Tomar sisters-in-law demonstrates how shooting sports and firearms education can empower and inspire members of disadvantaged and marginalized groups.

Shooting sports allow women to define their role in modern society—not just in India, but everywhere. Firearms can and do empower women. Also marksmanship can break down stereotypes and prove that age is really just a number.

Certainly, those are progressive triumphs.

Empowering individuals toward self-definition and liberty are forward steps necessary in a modern, diverse culture. It is critical to keep this in mind, as anti-gun activists blindly seek to take away our rights to practice our Second Amendment freedoms. Inhibiting those freedoms will only take us backward and deprive vulnerable groups in our country from gaining the spirit of independence.

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