And She Gets Sporting…

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MAREAYA FAYAZ

The women in Kashmir are tracing new stories in their athletic gears! Yes, a sporting revolution is taking place in Kashmir wherein more and more women are taking to sports and winning accolades at national and international levels.

IN the patriarchal Kashmiri community, a quiet transformation is taking place as Kashmiri women are donning their athletic footwear to overcome obstacles. Women are reformulating the narrative, confronting long-standing stereotypes. The focussed attention of the national government on athletic endeavours, particularly for females, serves as a significant incentive for women in Kashmir to achieve excellence in sports. The provision of top-notch amenities in the region has resulted in a notable increase in female participation across various sporting disciplines.

Sadia Tariq, hailing from Srinagar, achieved the distinction of being the inaugural Indian female recipient of a Wushu World Gold Medal at the Moscow Wushu Stars competition.

The evolution has not been limited to individual endeavours. Women’s athletic organisations and associations have emerged, nurturing a feeling of togetherness and solidarity. The previously reluctant families now proudly support their daughters from the sidelines, eradicating the obstacles that restrained their aspirations.

The news of Kashmiri women excelling in sports has resonated beyond the region, serving as evidence of their determination and the influential impact of challenging traditional gender roles. These women have not just achieved success in sports but have also won over the sentiments and thoughts of a society undergoing a significant transformation.

In the region where disputes frequently outweigh tales of success, the fortitude exhibited by female athletes from Kashmir is prominent – a symbol of optimism, shattering obstacles and crafting a fresh account for the future.

Athletes such as Nadiya Nighat, known for her achievement as the inaugural female football coach in Kashmir, and Bilquis Mir, an Olympian recognised for her prowess in kayaking-canoeing, are instrumental in challenging societal norms and creating opportunities for aspiring female sportspeople.

Kashmiri female athletes are overcoming obstacles in global and domestic sporting competitions, asserting their participation from the Olympic Games to the Asian Games.

Insha, a 27-year-old hailing from Beerwah village in the Budgam district of Kashmir, has demonstrated remarkable resilience in emerging as the inaugural female international wheelchair basketball athlete in the area. Despite facing the loss of both her limbs in a tragic incident, Insha persisted in her pursuit of basketball, ultimately assuming the role of captain for the women’s wheelchair basketball team of Jammu and Kashmir. Recognised by the Sports Minister of India and the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council, Insha’s unwavering resolve propelled her team to the quarter-finals in 2019, consequently securing for her, the prestigious Player of the Year accolade.

For females, societal disapproval and disparities in gender representation present hurdles in the pursuit of a career in professional sports. The realm of sports has been notably affected by acts of terrorism, as assaults on sporting arenas have led to the interruption of games and cessation of operations at facilities. Sportsmen and sportswomen have encountered menacing risks that impede their preparation and involvement. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the terrorism period, there is resurgence in the realm of sports.

Legislative amendments, like the revocation of Article 370, enhanced exposure, endorsements from brands, and notable accomplishments of specific athletes have played a part in the transformation of the sports environment in Kashmir. The creation of the Jammu and Kashmir Sports cadre and the yearly Women’s Premier League, demonstrates a wider trend towards acknowledging and fostering talent on both domestic and global platforms.

Additionally, the Indian Army’s Operation Sadbhavana seeks to use sports to inspire and include the youth in the area.

Prime Minister Modi engaged in digital interactions with athletes to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Fit India Movement. Afshan Asiq, the captain of Jammu and Kashmir’s inaugural women’s state football team and a former stone pelter, served as an example of the positive impact of sports in uplifting and uniting a region that is struggling with political complexities.

Kashmiri women’s sports scene is changing, and this is a testament to the incredible path of resilience, willpower, and empowerment. Amidst cultural, social, and political obstacles, Kashmiri women are reshaping the story, shattering preconceptions, and making a name for themselves in a variety of sports. Female athletes are overcoming hardship and accomplishing amazing achievements in a variety of sports, including wheelchair basketball, football, martial arts, and cricket. Notwithstanding ongoing obstacles, programmes such as the Women’s Premier League and official backing indicate a constructive change in the direction of gender parity in sports. Though it is evident that more work needs to be done before true equity can be achieved, the victories and anecdotes of Kashmiri women in sports will inspire future generations.

We have come a long way since the 1990s, when the Islamic Jihad executed by foot troops of Jamaat-i-Islami cadres severely damaged the sports infrastructure, industry, and careers of Kashmiri athletes. Overturning the centuries-old Sufistic and liberal Islam, tele-evangelists promoted Wahhabism, which was brought from Gulf countries and declared that women should not be seen participating in sports or wearing athletic apparel.

The inaugural Kashmir Women’s Cricket League, which took place in Srinagar during the final week of August 2023, has given women in Kashmir a newfound sense of empowerment. The women’s cricket league became a symbol of advancement and transformation in the area, extending beyond the realm of sports. It guaranteed a time when an individual’s talent would determine their possibilities rather than their gender. The league’s overwhelming success made it clear that women could succeed in any sector they chose. It was a positive step towards the inclusive future that many people had only dreamed about.

Future generations will be motivated by the legacy left by the women’s cricket league, which will serve as a constant reminder that when you are committed to reaching your objectives, no ambition is too huge or goal too far away.

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