Young disabled athletes whose parents survived the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster were wallowing on the sidelines as a punishment for protesting Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics.
Ishrat, a 17-year-old national gold medalist in 100m sprint, and hearing-impaired basketball player Payal Rajak, 16, and budding table tennis player Arbaaz Ali, 12, have not participated in any recognised competitive event after they raised the red flag against Dow Chemical, which is now the parent company of the defunct Union Carbide, which was responsible for the gas tragedy 30 years ago.
Ishrat, who suffers from a brain condition, said she would love to be on the race track and compete in international competitions because it boosts her confidence.
But she can’t because the Special Olympics Bharat has banned these children after they participated in a protest event organised by associations of gas survivors a day before the London Olympics was formally inaugurated.
Ehtishamuddin, the state secretary of Special Olympics Bharat, said the ban was imposed because the sports event organised in protest was named “Special Olympics”, which was a trademark violation.
“The ban was lifted recently. We never behaved indifferently with these children. We always promote talents,” he added.
Activists refused to buy the defence presented by Ehtishamuddin; as did the affected young athletes. They said grave injustice has been done to these sportspersons when they actually needed encouragement and help from the government.
“The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government never pays any attention to rehabilitating these children through sports nor did it make any effort to ensure participation of these children in sports events,” activist Rashida Bee said.
“Instead of opposing the involvement of Dow Chemical in the London Olympics, we banned the gas-affected children who protested. Can there be a bigger tragedy than this?”
Special educator Narendra said about 100 affected children were toiling daily to make a mark in sports. “They belong to categories such as hearing and speech disabilities, visually impaired or physically impaired. They are fighting the odds and trying to live a normal life through sports. In the absence of proper infrastructure, facilities, funds and exposure, the future looks bleak.”