Security forces help disabled J&K player reach Chennai in just 48 hours for trials

For Ishrat, a slam-dunk trip and win

Published - September 02, 2019 02:15 am IST - Kochi

Colonel Isenhower

Colonel Isenhower

Getting Ishrat Akther from Baramulla to Chennai, at the height of the restrictions imposed in the Kashmir Valley, was near-impossible. But when the Army and the Jammu and Kashmir police, along with retired military officers, decided to get going, Ms. Akther, a wheelchair basketball player, reached the southern metropolis within 48 hours.

At the end of the trip, the 20-year-old was selected to represent India for the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Thailand in October. Ms. Akther has been paralysed from the waist below after a fall in 2016.

‘Very swiftly’

Ms. Akther, who reached Kochi on Sunday, said everything happened very swiftly. “When I was told I had to reach Chennai for the selection camp, I didn’t think it would happen. But now, I am so happy that I don’t have words to express it,” she said.

Her journey was made possible by retired defence personnel and alumni of Sainik School at Kazhakootam in Thiruvananthapuram, with their key coordinator, Colonel Isenhower, leading the effort from his home at Kothamangalam using a mobile phone.

Col. Isenhower said it began when retired naval captain Louis George, at present the head coach of the Indian Women Wheelchair Basketball, sent a WhatsApp message on August 25 that two of the men players selected from Jammu and Kashmir had not reported to the Indian Wheel Chair Basketball training camp in Chennai held from August 23 to 27.

“He said one woman player, Ishrat Akther, had also not reported. Mobile communications were disrupted in the Valley and she had to be located and sent by flight to report latest by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27,” he added.

Col. Isenhower, who had served in Kashmir for a long time, then made it happen. “On August 25, I sent out a WhatsApp message with the bits and pieces of information I had gathered and posted it to all my contacts,” he said.

“One Brigadier Nietzche Balan (Retd.), who had commanded a Brigade in that area of Kashmir, took up the issue earnestly. Poonacha, my former colleague in Kashmir, took it upon himself to activate the J&K Police through Senior Superintendent of Police Aijaz Bhatt,” he said.

Ticket booked

Five hours after the message was posted, feedback was received that Ms. Akther had been contacted at her remote village in Baramulla. She got permission to travel on August 26, and officials helped her reach Srinagar. “I booked her ticket from there to Delhi and then to Chennai, where she was received by George and other team members,” Col. Isenhower said.

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