Kashmir’s Wheelchair Sports Stars Win Hearts

Men and women players participated in a three-day workshop on wheelchair basketball held in Srinagar.

By Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar:  In Jammu and Kashmir, many young boys and girls, who have been left disabled due to various reasons, decided to show their calibre by doing something discordant and raucous. They opted for sports for their endeavor.   About two dozen such men and four women players participated in a three-day workshop on wheelchair basketball held in Srinagar recently and most of them astonished everybody with their performance. These young men and women were happily leading their lives until spinal injuries pushed them in wheelchairs and with that were shattered their dreams for life. But as a Persian adage goes Himat-e-mardan, madad-e-Khuda (When men dare, God sends help), they took a pledge to do something great in their lives and get their calibre acknowledged by others. They chose wheelchair bound basketball for it. Insha Bashir, 24, is in the forefront of the activity both as a player and a coach for budding players. She said, “When I met with an accident I went into a state of deep depression. I felt life is no longer worth living. My parents were also suffering with me”. However, she also said that after getting into games she feels “new and better”. Insha is a national player today, representing Jammu and Kashmir. She takes pride in it and says, “I represent my state and I feel very good.”

Wheelchair Basketball Tournament
Wheelchair basketball is played by people with varying physical disabilities that disqualify them from playing an able-bodied sport. Wheelchair basketball is included in the Paralympic Games and was first contested at the Summer Paralympic in Rome in 1960. The first national wheelchair basketball tournament in the world was held in Illinois, US, in 1949 with six teams. As the game soon become popular mainly, with those who had been disabled during the Second World War, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) was formed as the governing body for the sport, thereby promoting it in various continents including Africa, Europe, Americas and Asia and Oceania.
In India, the sport got its godmother in Madhavi Latha, a paralympic swimming champion, who initiated a movement “Yes We Too Can” for the sportsmen with disability in 2014. Soon the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) came into existence to promote the sport.
The sport is becoming popular fast also in Jammu and Kashmir which has, during the three-decade old turmoil, witnessed a rapid increase in the number of disabled people. Many people were rendered disabled in traffic accidents.
Varun Ahlawat, who has been a wheelchair basketball coach for 10 years, said that the purpose of holding the workshop was to teach the Valley’s disabled young boys and girls how to play wheelchair basketball in a better way so that it becomes easy to get them included in the national team. “We are promoting girls in Kashmir. There are four such girls this time. We’re optimistic about one of them being selected for the international contests,” the Delhi-based coach said.

A Message of Hope
Insha said that basketball has become a part of her life and has helped her in putting up a fight. She has a message of hope for J&K’s disabled youth who wish to make a mark in sports. She said, “You should never give up. It takes time to come to terms.  I assure you, you will triumph over what you are carrying with you.”
Insha became disabled after she fell from the third floor of the family’s under construction house in central district of Budgam in 2009. She like, most other participants of workshop, learnt that disability is no barrier to achieving incredible things at a voluntary medicare society called Shafqat Rehabilitation Centre (VMS-SRC) which has been operating from Srinagar’s Bemina area since 2010.
(The Asian Age) 

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