While seeking permission from his parents for spending a night at his uncle’s house, Javed had little idea what destiny had in store. That night, he was crippled for life. Bullets, however, could not cripple his determination and Javed now fights for the rights of physically challenged. Hamidullah Dar narrates his story.
Asleep one night at his uncle’s home, Javed Ahmad Tak woke up at the midnight hour overhearing some men in the corridor. It was not a usual conversation. And he decided to see for himself, little knowing that the few hurried paces he walks to the corridor would be his last.
Tak narrates those fateful moments. “Around midnight, I overheard some unusual conservation in the corridor. As I opened the door, I was struck to see a group of men, wearing masks and carrying pistols, arguing with my cousin,” he says. “They were trying to drag my cousin outside the house. In the meantime, one of them asked for ransom. As soon as I tried to approach them, they fired at me from close range.”
Javed was hit several times in his abdomen. He was rushed to the hospital where he spent the next month, recovering. “My life was saved, but soon it dawned upon me that bullets fired by the assailants had damaged my spleen, intestine, part of liver, kidney, and vertebral column thus injuries to the spinal chord. I couldn’t believe that I was crippled. My freedom was curtailed and I was confined to bed,” says Tak.
Tak had just finished his B Sc final year examination before the incident on March 21, 1997. As time passed, Javed realized that his world had shrunk to four walls of a small room in his house. His sphere of influence had been reduced to the reach of his arm. Javed took it as a challenge and made his mind to shed inhabitations of disability. Then one Sunday morning he heard the chatter of small children from a nearby street.
“They were playing probably. I asked my mother to invite all of them as I wanted to see them and feel their joy. Mummy brought them into the room and I talked to them at length. In between, I told them to come for free tuitions after school. My proposal worked and suddenly I witnessed a rush of children from the entire locality,” he recalls. “Earlier, I was all alone. Now, till late, I would not get time to relieve.”
While children learnt, Javed began to regain his confidence.
“Their presence around me helped me to come out of bed and use the wheelchair. After three years, they took me out of the confines of the house,” he says.
Soon he founded a group Humanity Welfare Helpline meeting the needs of poor children. The people associated with this group used to go for a door to door book collection and then distribute the same among poor children.
The group also works to help fight polio. “I know what it means to be disabled. So along with my young friends, I made it a point to ensure a polio-free society,” says Javed. “We go door to door to administer polio vaccine to small children, we organise roadside camps on highways and administer vaccines to travelling children.”
Once able to move out of his house, Javed thought of higher studies and secured admission at the University of Kashmir for Masters in Social Work. The degree and the exposure blended with his personal experiences strengthened his resolve to fight for the rights of disabled.
“We need rights, not sympathetic words. But the unfortunate thing is that people remember disabled persons on festivals only when they give money to charities. Once in offices, they deny disability rights to physically challenged persons that demoralises them,” Javed complains.
He adds that J&K disability rights act 1998 provides for equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of disabled persons in every field, which has not been enforced in the state so far. Continuing with his fight for disabled, Javed has succeeded in persuading authorities to incorporate ramps in many buildings at Kashmir University for facilitating wheelchairs. He arranges teachers’ workshops in BEd colleges where the future teachers are taught how to tackle a physically challenged student.
Javed says that there are more than six percent people afflicted with disabilities in the state but the government has kept a quota of three percent in employment for them. “However that too is not granted,” he says. “With our efforts, SSRB is now selecting physically challenged persons, but just two percent, which we hope will get better in future,” opines Javed.
Striving for better future for physically challenged, Tak says for him ultimate success means “when we are treated at par with normal people and society accords us equal respect, there lies my ultimate joy.”