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Exclusive: Here is why Deepa Malik joined politics and BJP

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New Delhi, April 5: Iconic and inspirational 'divyang' sportsperson Deepa Malik has joined politics. She joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on March 25, 2019, in the presence of BJP President Amit Shah, party's Haryana unit chief Subhash Barala, and general secretary Anil Jain.

Para-Athlete Deepa Malik joins Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at party headquarters in New Delhi, Monday, March 25, 2019.

Though Deepa's entry into politics may surprise a few who don't know much about her. Those, who are familiar with her resilience and determination are sure that one day she would repeat her success in sports in politics as well.

Deepa was born as a normal healthy child in 1970, but in 1977, she suffered from tumours along the spine and recovered after surgery and extensive physiotherapy. She got married in 1989 but her condition worsened once again at the age of 29. She underwent two surgeries in the Army Research and Referral Hospital, rated amongst the best in the country, but could not recover and was paralysed from the chest and below.

Deepa has an Army background. Her husband, Colonel (retd.) Bikram Singh Malik served the Armoured Corps in one of the oldest regiments of the corps, The Scinde Horse. Her father-in-law Major General (retd.) Balbir Singh Malik commanded the same regiment as her husband. Her husband's grandfather Late Major Asaram Malik was a gallantry war hero from the Poona Horse in World War II. Her father, Late Colonel BK Nagpal, served with the Grenadiers, a reputed Infantry Regiment. Her brother Brigadier Vikram Nagpal is presently in service.

At the age of 36, Deepa felt that she had to do something more with her body to prove her mission -- 'Ability beyond Disability' and change the stereotypical mindset of the society towards the limitations of a woman in disability. And true to her grit and determination, in less than six years, she became an international sportsperson.

Her feats have been acknowledged with many awards. Prominent among these are the Arjuna Award in 2012, and Padma Shri in 2017 and Haryana Karambhoomi Award in 2008. The Government of Maharashtra has also awarded her with the Shiv Chhatrapati Award (Sports) in 2009. The list of her awards is very long and meritorious.

Deepa, India's first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic Games, in an exclusive interview tells OneIndia why did she join politics and what are her goals.

OneIndia: Did you ever think that you would join politics one day?

Deepa: I have always led from the front. Even as a young student I was consistently appointed as the class monitor and also served as school captain. So, I have always had a leadership quality and have always made efforts to be a voice for those around me, be it in my student days, as a sportsperson, or as a divyang. In Gandhiji's profound words, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

OneIndia: Why have you joined politics? What are your goals in politics?

Deepa: I have made the nation proud throughout my diligent sports and adventure sports career. I have always believed in giving back to society and as a social activist I have also contributed towards shaping inclusive sports policies and have been an expert citizen consultant of various consultation boards instituted by the government, like the Smart Cities project or Accessible India campaign. The honour of Padma Shri bestowed upon me is a testament of my service to the nation. Coming from an army background, I have very strong values of righteousness, fitness, patriotism & 'Service Before Self', and I always impart the same to the youth. My vision now is to use this grand platform to continue my nation-building efforts on a larger scale.

OneIndia: Why have you joined the BJP?

Deepa: I believe that the BJP is the best platform for me to continue my work for my fellow citizens. The many initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have always been close to my heart. Whether you look at the inclusive sports policies - for example the equal and non-discriminatory Target Olympics Podium Scheme funding that elite athletes with disabilities received enabled us to double our medal tally at the Paralympics 2016 and bring home the first ever women's medal - or the fact that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act has been updated to reflect our commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; or campaigns like Accessible India and Swachh Bharat, which have finally brought topics like inclusion, cleanliness and hygiene into mainstream focus, raising awareness in every household; empowering women through schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' campaign are all things that have been achieved with BJP's leadership. Given that these matters are close to my heart and I have always been a vocal advocate of inclusion, the past 4-5 years have been rather heartening. And what could be the better way to contribute towards shaping this New India than from within the system under the guidance of the elders who have the vision for New India.

OneIndia: Where India is lacking in providing facilities to make lives of Divyangs simpler? What more needs to be done?

Deepa: As I have mentioned, I have been paralysed below chest for two decades now, and I can say from my personal experience that the matters of inclusion and accessibility have received exponentially more attention during Prime Minister Modi's rule. For example, we have moved from 'viklang' to 'divyang', a shift in the stereotypical mindset, which is the most crucial step in achieving any positive social change. We are continuing to work on spreading awareness among rural population with disabilities regarding their rights and the various schemes & policies that the government has instituted in order to ensure they are able to live up to their full potential.

OneIndia: Anything else that you want to share with our readers?

Deepa: I can say with confidence that I have performed my fundamental duties as a citizen. I have not only brought laurels to the nation but also enabled my fellow citizens to rise with me. Through my foundation, Wheeling Happiness, we empower people with disabilities to live self-reliant lives and have supported the provision of almost 500 varied disability aids. I am fortunate that my efforts have touched so many lives, be it supporting grassroots athletes with disabilities, women's entrepreneurship, disability advocacy, encouraging the youth towards nation building. I am grateful that my contributions have received national and international recognition, like the President's 'First Ladies Award' (Ministry of Women & Child Development) - 2017, Women Transforming India Award (NITI Aayog, MyGov & United Nations India) - 2016, President's National Role Model Award - 2014, Arjuna Award, Bhim Award - State Government Sports Awards 2013-14 - Haryana, International Paralympic Committee - International Women's Day Recognition 2019, International Human Rights Council's 'Exceptional Speaker Award', to name a few. I have also been conferred two honorary doctorate degrees in the fields of Sports and Social Service. My life is an example that hard work truly pays off, uplifting not just you alone but also the community around you.

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