National Sports Day: Role of Persons with disabilities and CWSNs
The day is dedicated to the nations’ sports heroes and champions, honoring their contribution and dedication towards bringing laurels to the country. With the aim to raise awareness about the values of sports: discipline, perseverance, sportsman spirit, teamwork, and to encourage public in large to take up sports and make it an integral part of their lives while emphasizing on the importance of being fit and healthy. National Sports Day’s primary motto is to promote awareness about the importance of sports and being physically active in the daily life of all citizens.
Persons with disabilities do not keep themselves away from participating in sports activities. From recent years their participation in National and International events are encouraging which is the need of the hour. Sport can help to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transforms community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person. Through sport, persons without disabilities interact with persons with disabilities in a positive context forcing them to reshape assumptions about what persons with disabilities can and cannot do.
Sport changes the person with disability in an equally profound way by empowering them to realize their full potential and advocate for changes in society. Through sport, persons with disabilities acquire vital social skills, develop independence, and become empowered to act as agents of change. Sport teaches individuals how to communicate effectively as well as the significance of teamwork and cooperation and respect for others.
Sport is also well-suited to reducing dependence and developing greater independence by helping persons with disabilities to become physically and mentally stronger. These skills can be transferred into other new arenas including employment and advocacy work further helping to build self-sufficiency. Conduct of the first competitive sporting event for individuals with disabilities in 1948 has been regarded as the first landmark in connection with the acknowledging the rights of the disabled people at the international forum.
Let me quote examples of great sportspersons with one or other disability like Arunima Sinha who has been the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest in 2011, Major DP Singh is the first Indian to run half a marathon with the blade, Girish Sharma is India’s disabled Badminton Champion and it is his sheer dedication that led him to win the Gold Medal in the Paralympics Asia Cup for the disabled. H Boniface Prabhu was the highest ranked quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player in Asia in 2011 and was awarded Padma Shri in recognition of his efforts.
Vishwanathan lost sensation in the lower half of his body as a kid but despite, became India’s first skydiver and has his name registered in the Limca Book of Records for being the first Indian with a disability to skydive from 14,000 feet, Deepa Malik has 54 national medals and 13 international medals in shotput, javelin throw, and other sports and for her swimming performance she won the Arjuna Award in 2012, Aruna Tanwar’s five-time national champion has consistently attained a podium finish at the Asian Para Taekwondo Championships and World Para Taekwondo Championships, Table Tennis player Bhavinaben Patel opened India’s account at the Games when she became only the second Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics in 2021 at Tokyo.
Avani Lekhara made history on August 30 when she became the first Indian woman ever to win a gold medal at the Paralympics at Tokyo in 2021. Having won over 60 medals through his career till date, Mukundan received the mantle of being the only para swimmer to win more than 50 international medals. Tokyo Paralympics champion Javelin thrower Sumit Antil and silver medalist discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya created new world records at the ongoing fourth Indian Open National Para Athletics Championships at the Sri Kanteerava stadium here on Friday.
Not only from India but also from J&K Irfan Mir from Kashmir, despite being visually impaired had scaled Siachen Glacier along with a team of seven other specially-abled persons and was mentioned by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his “Mann Ki Baat” radio programme, Amir Hussain Lone, a differently-abled athlete from Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag area, is the captain of Jammu and Kashmir’s para-cricket squad. After losing both arms to an electric shock in 2011, 19-year-old para athlete Chandeep Singh from Jammu and Kashmir converted his disability into ability, winning two gold medals for India in Kimunyong Cup Taekwondo Championship in South Korea in 2018.
Bringing laurels, the special Para-athlete Rajinder Singh has bagged a gold medal for J&K in the National Boccia Championship in 2022. Kashmir’s first pwheel chair basketball player, Inshah Bashir, is a native of Budgam district represented India in the US in 2019 and participated in the National Championship as the captain of the J&K Wheelchair Basketball Women’s. Mohammad Rafee’s formidable skills on the basketball court have earned him a place on the national side and is also the captain of the J&K Wheelchair Basketball team.
Mohammad Azeem hailing from Sidhra Chowk Jammu, is a national cricketer for visually impaired from J&K a left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper. These are just examples but the number of such brave para sports persons is now very encouraging. Amir Rouf, a deaf and mute athlete from Srinagar took part in various sports activities including Taekwondo , cricket, volleyball, chess Deaf and Mute IPL 2014 in Jalandhar (Punjab) among others. After getting trained from Kashmir’s famous Ski Resort Gulmarg, Amir represented India in the snow ski championship” Winter Deaflympics” held in Valtellina, Italy in 2019. In the championship, he bagged 30th position.
Hilal wani and Umar Ashraf Beigh dumb and deaf cricketer from district Anantnag and Kupwara prominent cricketers of the Valley and both have impressed the entire current JK cricketer with their batting skills. Nayeem Ahmad Malla and Feroz Ahmad Ganie, both physically disabled was selected for the International Indian cricket team to play the ODI series against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first legally binding international instrument to address the rights of persons with disabilities and sport. Article 30 of the Convention addresses both mainstream and disability-specific sport and stipulates that “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels”.
It also calls upon Governments, States party to the Convention, to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sport and recreational venues — as spectators and as active participants. This also requires that children with disabilities be included in physical education within the school system “to the fullest extent possible” and enjoy equal access to “play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities”.
Participation in sport and physical activities has always been beneficial for the people with disability but in our educational institutions, they are generally offered very limited opportunities of participation in sport and physical activities. And probably, in many cases they do not have any chance of participation in sport and physical activities.
There must be formal guidelines to help coaches in their bid to train differently-abled persons and CWSNs at school and college level. Adequate funding is to be reserved in place so that para-athletes get access to the tools they need to boost their talent and bring more medals. Accessible playgrounds and sports grounds are need to become a mandate. Also, Sports and Physical Education teachers at the school level should be trained to impart coaching to physically challenged, sportspersons, CWSNs and youngsters.
The sporting culture for differently-abled persons is limited to few pockets of the country and needs to be taken to all corners of the Country. Recently, the Government of India has taken many initiatives such as the TOPS, Khelo India, Fit India, etc which has the potential to transform the sports landscape of India. The recent successes at the Para-Olympics, in commonwealth games and other world championships have been extremely encouraging. Parents and youngsters are increasingly looking at sports as a career in the country. Right now we are the inflection point of a vibrant sporting culture in India which is only to rise steeply given the support and ecosystem building done by the Indian Government with focus on persons with disabilities having a talent of sportpersonship.
(The author is a regular contributor to ‘Kashmir Vision’)