Hima Das, the Indian sprinter from Assam, has made the whole country proud by winning gold at the 400-metre sprint in World Junior Athletics Championship. Hima Das became the first Indian to win a gold at the track event held in Tampere, Finland. She took 51.46 seconds to clinch the gold in Women’s 400 metres sprint. It is noteworthy that this was just the second international competition for Hima. The 18 year old is definitely going to be a force to reckon with in the days to come. Hima who hails from Kandhulimari village in Dhing, Assam has made the entire India proud but her achievements on the track are equally fascinating and inspiring to her journey to reach to the podium. Much before she became a national icon and an inspiration for people of our country, Hima Das had already been a hero in her native place Dhing and Kandhulimari. The families from her native village and nearby villages know Hima better for being a vocal social activist who has stood up against social ills.
In 2016, Hima Das led a group of women who were out to dismantle an illegal liquor outlet at Auni-Ati, the group of women succeeded in their mission. The owner retaliated by filing a case against her father Ranjit Das and two others, the ongoing case does not trouble her father, who said, “The last hearing was on June 27. But I don’t mind appearing in court [at the district headquarters, Nagaon, 26 km away] for a daughter who has put me on top of the world”. She has countless times protested and successfully managed to bring a positive change in the society as well. Hima’s mother recounts a story where she got angry at a Tata Sumo driver for not giving her a lift while he picked up two other children. The result, Hima challenged the driver to a race, her vs the car, she beat the car to her home in the end. While some credit for her win could also be attributed to the treacherous terrains for vehicles in the village, it nonetheless shows the determination and courage she had at an early age.
Hima has also been a vocal critic of the illegal immigrants problem in her village and of Assam in general. Her native village Dhinghas has an ongoing problem of illegal immigrants Bangladeshi Muslims crossing over and settling down over the years. Many Assamese families have sold off their land and fields and have moved on from Dhing and neighboring villages owing to migrant pressure. Upamanyu Hazarika member of PrabrajanVirodhi Mancha or anti-infiltration forum and an ex-resident of Dhing said, “It breaks my heart whenever I visit Dhing, our ancestral town. It is a living example of how in one generation, one has to live as a minority in one’s own place. Dhing now has over 90% Muslims of East Bengal, erstwhile East Pakistan and Bangladesh origin.” Hima has been a vocal critic of the illegal immigrant problem and the troubles they cause to the native people of Assam. A champion in her own stride both on and off the field her presence definitely has made a difference to the Assamese families around her.
We wish her recent achievements help solve some of the problems of her Assamese villagers whose lifestyle and culture is threatened by the influx of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants who are predominantly Muslim. As for Hima, her Guwahati based coach for the last two years, Nipon Das beautifully sums up her attitude, “She is a raw talent with energy and positive attitude that is contagious. She does not care about who her opponents are. She is just focused on outrunning others.”