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In Kashmir, disabled people find inspiration in sports

Inshah Bashir in Indian-administered Kashmir has a mantra: “Wherever there is hope, there is life.” The phrase inspires the Kashmiri woman to fight the challenges life has thrown in her path, including a physical disability.

Bashir, 28, is the captain of her region’s women’s wheelchair basketball team. She was the recent recipient of a national award for individual excellence by the president of India on the eve of International Disability Day.

Her team won a silver medal this year at the basketball championship in India.

She said she finds hope and solace in sports. “It gives me an identity and strength to achieve what I can target for,” she told Anadolu Agency.

Bashir has won accolades and appreciation for her sporting abilities but she has not given up on the fight for the rights of the disabled in the Kashmir region.

In addition to being an athlete, she works as a warden with the Voluntary Medicare Society to help those with disabilities in the region, providing counseling and moral support.

She said in Kashmir there are a lot of people who need support and a helping hand. “If I can somehow help them out, I would be more appreciative of myself,” she said.

Disability and mental trauma

Bashir was active. She loved going out. But an accident 13 years ago took her ability to move after she fell off the balcony of her home in the Budgam district.

The accident damaged her spinal cord and even after multiple surgeries, she could not stand. She became a victim of locomotive disability and has since remained wheelchair-bound, which triggered anxieties.

“When I recall that time, it brings tears to my eyes. My head gets heavy to just think about what I have gone through,” said Bashir.

She said it is not easy to live as a disabled person. “It kills you inside and a time arrives when everything looks like a blur and you want an end to it.”

Mental health experts in the region said physical disabilities can trigger anxiety and depression, which may lead to suicidal thoughts.

It is particularly evident in cases where someone becomes disabled through an accident or an incident at a later point in life.

“It definitely impacts a person who became disabled at a later point in life rather than one who is born as disabled,” Yasir Rather, a consulting psychiatrist at a mental health institute in Srinagar, told Anadolu Agency.

According to a study by Kashmiri sociologist Bashir Dabla, there are more than 600,000 people with disabilities in Kashmir, with almost 50 percent permanently disabled.

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Hope in sports

After being in depression and isolation for years, Bashir sought help in 2017 through the Shafakat Rehabilitation Centre, which is a part of the Voluntary Medicare Society.

The center was established in 1970 and is dedicated to the care, treatment and rehabilitation of those dealing with physical and mental disabilities.

“In this center, I received a new pathway to build my life,” said Bashir, adding that the center allowed her to chase her dreams.

In 2017, Bashir saw some disabled boys at the center playing wheelchair basketball. She instantly was hooked and asked them to teach and let her play with them.

“They helped me without any hesitation and started to teach me. And I was feeling so relieved when I played it. It helped me to release that anger and frustration that was inside me for years,” she said.

Bashir went on to represent India at the March 2019 wheelchair basketball championship in the US. She attended the Indian championship in Mohali Punjab the same year as captain of her region’s women’s team.

The team reached the quarterfinals for the first time as Bashir was awarded the Player of the Year in 2019. Now, she has a dream to win gold at the Paralympics.

Dr Bashir Lone, an administrator with Voluntary Medicare Society told Anadolu Agency that since 2015, the non-profit organisation has been running a dedicated sports club for people with disabilities with the primary goal of ensuring their well-being.

“There are hundreds of disabled people we receive at our center every year. We make sure that besides getting medical treatment, they get a helping hand from us,” he said.

Lone said disabled people in Kashmir need basic accessible facilities and other rights the government has to ensure.

“If they are shown the right direction, they can do wonders,” said Lone.

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