Malika Handa belongs to the city of Jalandhar in Punjab. She has a disability and is speech and hearing impaired. She wasn’t born with it but developed it when she was only a year old. She was eleven when her father first brought a chess board at home and taught her Chess. She soon showed both interest and aptitude in the game. She kept practicing and playing with her cousin’s brother and father. Slowly she started spending more time on it.
After this, she started playing with other people, and soon she started participating in chess competitions and playing nationwide. It didn’t take her long to realize how good she was at the sport, and she started dedicating more and more time. Her chess talent also led her to secure a seat in the college.
Struggles and Achievements
Even after being exceptionally talented at a young age and outperforming her competitors, she never got to benefit from government facilities. Instead, she participated in and won the National Deaf Chess Championship, which was held in Mysuru.
She then won a silver medal in Manchester during Deal Biltz Chess Championship. By this time, she had become a national champion seven times and was the first Indian woman to have won a Gold medal in International Deaf and Dumb Chess Championship.
In 2013, she was denied to participate in an event held in Germany become of an ongoing dispute between international bodies and Indian Sports Authority. She was sent back to Indore and asked for trials, after which she was allowed to participate in the event.
Awards and Recognition
Malika Handa has received National Youth Award from the Government of India and gained recognition all over India. She has now become a gold medalist eight times in national competitions and continues to inspire women and members of specially-abled communities nationwide.
Lack of Support for Disabled Sport Athletes
In 2022, Malika Handa tweeted about her struggle and disappointment with the state government. Malika had been previously promised multiple cash rewards and a government job opportunity as a reward for her hard work in representing India at the Global level. Instead, she had worked continuously for several years focusing on Chess, not academics and Job employment. This concern is because Chess is still not a mainstream sport in India, and it is hard to live based on earnings from sports in the long run. But assured by the Government of Punjab, she chose to give it all to Chess and forget about everything else.
After asking about the cash rewards and job offer for five years, which the state government promised, she finally expressed her frustration on Twitter. She revealed that the state’s sports minister had said that the previous government promised the reward and job and was not their responsibility to give rewards to deaf athletes.
When Twitter users enquired more about the issue to Malika, she revealed an official letter from the government. The official letter signed by an IAS officer representing the state government stated that she was invited to receive cash rewards from the government. However, when asked more about the issue, it was found out that the player was left out in the cold due to the event being cancelled due to Covid.
Further, Malika posted a video of the former sports minister standing with her and declaring he would give awards to her. Soon an emotional video was posted by Malika. She is seen crying and shaking her gold medals, expressing what she should do now and stating her future is ruined.
A Silver Lining
Malika has become the face that represents the struggles of Disabled sports athletes in India. She is now fighting and asking for rights for the whole disabled sports athletes’ community in India. Her battle has been recognized by the Telangana Government, which gave her a cash reward of INR 15 Lacs for her achievements.