They fought battles for the country. And while skirmishes may have tragically taken away their limbs, it couldn’t take away their grit and determination.
These brave jawans did not let their disability define them. Instead, these six men carved their names golden on a different wall of honour.
Indian para-cyclists, Abhishek Singh Sheku, Divij Shah, Harinder Singh, Ajay Singh, Ajay Kumar, Gurulal Singh, Kaigoulal, Bir Bahadur Singh, and Aditya Mehta, won laurels and clinched all medals at the 6th Asian Para-cycling Championship held in Bahrain in February this year.
While most of them are ex-servicemen from Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), two are from Border Security Force (BSF).
The jawans bagged all three medals in the 12.8 km Individual Time Trial of the championship. 26-Year-Old Abhishek Singh Sheku clinched a gold, 25-year-old Divij Shah bagged silver, and 27-year-old Harinder Singh won a bronze medal.
Their stories are a reflection of their resilience and valour.
Belonging to Punjab, Harinder was rendered crippled for life in 2012, after being the only survivor from his eight-member team from a terrorist-triggered mine blast in Poonch.
Another member, Gurulal Singh, also lost his leg in a mine blast in Poonch two years later, when he tried to save his colleague.
While Birbahadur Singh’s leg was amputated after being injured by a Maoist-triggered blast in Chhattisgarh in 2013, Kaigoulal lost his right leg on his election duty in Assam in a blast.
In an interview with the Times of India, Harinder thanked the founder of The Aditya Mehta Foundation (AMF) who is a para-athlete and Asian medalist himself. The foundation was set up to support para-athletes in India.
“Initially we were reluctant. But Aditya Mehta encouraged us to take up para-cycling. He conducted a five-day camp in Gujarat last year. After a few counselling sessions, we gathered strength and started training. In October last year, we shifted our base to Hyderabad and began training regularly here,” he told the publication.
These para cyclists first participated at the World Championship in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, competing with over 41 countries. Despite not clinching any medals at the time, it helped them get a sense of how World Championships work and who they were pitted against.
They trained train harder, and their win at the Asian Championship in Bahrain in February proved their merit as para-athletes.
They have set their eyes on the next World Championship, and we hope they clinch medals for the country there too!