Srinagar: Inshah Bashir, who has represented India in international sports forums, is the first female basketball player from Kashmir who uses a wheelchair. As the captain of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Wheelchair Basketball women’s team, she has played in many events including the National Championship. Her dream now is to win a gold medal for India.
The journey of this achievement for Inshah, who lost her ability to walk at the age of 15, has not been an easy one. In 2008, when she was between high school and college, she fell from a balcony. Inshah, who was suffering from a gastric ulcer, was vomiting blood and feeling dizzy on the day of the accident.
Owing to the severity of the fall, she suffered a serious injury to her spinal chord. She also underwent surgery. She was told, however, that she would never walk again. But, she claims that this accident changed her life forever. After surgery, she was almost completely bedridden for nine years. She was unable to sit upright due to the plate that was attached to her spine.
The taunts of people around her crushed her morale even further. Many would apparently ask her family whether or not they will ever be able to get her married. For years, she was made to feel like a burden on her parents for a life that was forced upon her. “I could die, but my parents never gave up. They supported me in each step of life. My father used to inspire me all the time, reminding me of my childhood dreams,” she recalls. “He was sure that his daughter would make him proud one day. So, I decided to fulfill my father’s dream.”
Inshah, who hails from the Beerwah village in the Budgam district of Kashmir, finally decided to go to a rehabilitation centre. There, she felt that she witnessed people living in conditions worse than her own. These people inspired her to challenge herself physically and start playing a sport.
While at the rehabilitation centre, she learned to play basketball on a wheelchair. Eventually, her efforts bore fruit, and in 2017, she participated in the National Championship in Hyderabad. At the time, she had to play in the boys’ team as there was no separate team for girls. Since then, she has continued to play at many national sporting events. In 2019, she was even invited by the US Consulate to attend the Sports Visitor Program.
Once she became more active in basketball, some people criticised her religious affiliation and her choice to wear a hijab. But she says that people mostly accepted her and she felt welcomed wherever she went across the country. From officials to fellow team members, she received help when she needed it, and even had offers to join teams from many states. But she decided to come back to Kashmir and form the J&K Wheelchair Basketball women’s team, with support from the Basketball Federation of India.
In 2019, the Federation organised a camp in Kashmir and twelve girls joined her team. She says that she initially did not benefit from any governmental assistance. It was when Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju was made aware of her work that things changed; she says that he offered support in two meetings with her. Rijiju has also helped her in a recent surgery that she had to undergo. After that, he made arrangements for travel and accommodation for her to attend the national selection camp. When he came to know that she did not have a sports wheelchair to play in, he arranged for a state-of-the-art piece.
The Ministry of Sports has also released a fund of Rs 6 lakh to Inshah under the Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya National Welfare Fund for Sportspersons. Inshah is currently looking forward to representing India at the Paralympics and securing a gold medal for her country.
Indiablooms News Service