Last week when the cleric separatist Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said J&K was not a “better” state but a “police state”, he was completely on track in conveying the ground realities. The latest and most inhuman was the police charge on a huge gathering of specially-abled people, the same lot of population that till recently was dubbed disabled.
The occasion was the international disability day and these people had arranged a good gathering to convey their grievances and issues to the larger society. Their procession was midway when the police took over the scene. They were beaten and some of them were arrested and dragged to the waiting police vehicles. The scene was completely a contrast to what happened in other societies within India. As the disabled came out in gatherings, the people came around to show their solidarity with them. And in Kashmir, the people were made to witness how the “special abled” police unleashed its prowess and powers on this unfortunate lot.
Kashmir is a tragic story on the disability front. While a section of the population is born with disabilities, the systems and situations are adding to the disabilities every day. While the lack of professional support is rendering almost 100 linemen disabled a year, the crowd management has created a new section of underdogs who have lost their eyes.
But the support front is terribly shocking. The railways, for instance, has one compartment reserved for the specially abled. But it runs locked because the security guards have converted it into their fief. Recently, a man rendered lame by an accident sought a seat in this compartment and the guards laughed at him saying: show the certificate first.
Last year, apparently acting on the court directions, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation re-laid parts of the footpaths across Srinagar. The motive was to use special grant to make the life of specially abled people comfortable so that they can move around easily. The result: it is being used by cyclists and other two wheelers to encroach upon the space that is supposed for people who walk.
For the last many years, there has been a thrust on managing the needs of this loot of population. While enough of funds are earmarked for their special infrastructural requirements, there are a number of special schemes aimed at offering special attention to them. Policies are laid down about the percentage of intake in professional institutions and the jobs that the government creates. But all these things in statute books are implemented more with breach and contempt towards this population.
In the rest of the world, there are specially designed educational institutions and vocational training centres that take care of their needs but in Kashmir the best institution are being run by charity in private sector. And they too are quite a few to manage the major load that society offers. Jammu offered a gory instance, very recently, when the inmates of a house manning mentally unfit girls were used as sex slaves and the case is pending with the court.
A better society must recognize the crisis that its systems have created and start treating it. Well before it become a disabled society.