Fight for a right

Born with a neurological disorder, Syed Bashir-ud-din Qadri, has fought with life to pursue education. It took further fighting – in courts – to win a right to teach. Shaziya Yousuf reports.

Syed Bashir-ud-din Qadri, 28, has just won an important battle of his life, but that is just one of the battles he has fought in his life. He started battling with the odds in his life, when he was a child – a disabled child with cerebral palsy.

The latest one, fought in courts for over three years, has returned to him a right to teach in a school, something he was denied because of his disability.

Born in 1981, in Kanjinag Awantipora, Qadri’s parents realised his handicap in some six months of his birth, as he would not make any significant movements. By the time he was four, and still unable to move, walk or speak, he was diagnosed of cerebral palsy – a neurological disorder that affects body movements and muscle coordination.

Doctors, however, assured his parents that he can go to school in ‘some time’. “We wanted him to somehow become self sufficient, we longed to see him walk,” says his father, Shams-ud-din Qadri, a junior engineer in PWD.

In some time his condition improved, he started uttering broken words and making slight movements. Three more years had passed when Qadri first stood on his legs.

However next day when he stood again, the family celebrated. His improving health raised his parents’ hopes, who began to think about his education. The village school, however, was three kilometres uphill. For Qadri who could barely walk, it was far far away.

In 1989 the family moved to a rented room in Bijbehara, where his father was posted, and put him in a public school.

“He would fall on mere touch,” says Shams-ud-din. “The principal introduced him on the morning assembly as his own child.”

“My principal said that he will punish anybody making fun of me. I was abnormal,” Qadri breaks the silence.

Provided with a helper in examinations, Qadri proved to be meritorious student to the surprise of his parents and teachers.

By 1996 when Qadri was admitted in Government High School Noorpora, he would walk without any support. In 1997, he passed high school with 36 percent marks, “I knew all the answers but I cannot speak well. It would take time for the helper to understand what I said,” explains Qadri.

He went on to pass his higher secondary examination (with mathematics) from his village higher secondary school. His family was now content with his education. But Qadri wanted more.

Succumbing to his enthusiasm, Qadri’s grandmother accompanied him to Srinagar where they spent three years in a rented room till he completed his graduation through Amar Singh College in 2003. Qadri became the first graduate in his family.

In December 2004, a primary school was upgraded to middle in his village creating three teacher (Rehbar-e-Taleem) posts. Qadri applied and topped the merit list declared by CEO Pulwama in Feb 2005.

Another applicant, Nazir Ahmad Shah, who figured at number 4 in the merit list challenged Qadri’s selection on the basis of his disability. Qadri’s appointment letter was withheld and he was asked to produce a fitness certificate. Qadri says it was a humiliation for a disabled like him, who always seek encouragement from the normal people.

But he decided to fight, and filed a petition in High Court. For two years no headway was made in the court, until a renowned lawyer Mian Qayoom appeared on his behalf and raised a query.

“He asked that why is director asking for a fitness certificate if we agree that our client is handicapped. Do they want us to bribe doctors and get fake certificate,” Qadri recalls.
The court ordered the Director Education to consider Qadri under handicapped category. The director then formed a committee of experts to examine if Qadri was fit for the post. The committee found him capable of carrying out his duties. Qadri was appointed.

The family could finally celebrate Qadri’s self reliance after 25 years of struggle. But another writ petition was filed in High Court challenging his appointment. Qadri had joined, but taught in fear.

After one year the judge ordered Director Education to submit a report about his work performance during his one year stay in school.

Again a committee was formed for on spot monitoring, and again the performance report was positive. However, a report submitted by the Neurology Department SKIMS on court orders stated that a person with cerebral palsy was not fit for teaching. The two varied versions made the court to arrange an open court examination for Qadri.

“I was very nervous, even a normal person becomes nervous before judge. There were many people in the court. I couldn’t speak and sat down. I felt humiliated,” he recalls.
His failure in the open court affected the judgement. The court asked director to identify a desk job for him.

In Feb 2009, Qadri left for Delhi with his father and filed writ petition in Supreme Court. A human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves fought his case for free.

In March, the apex court directed that Qadri should be immediately reinstated , paid all the arrears, and considered to be on duty from the date of his disengagement, “I did it for all those disabled who get humiliated for their disability,” beams Qadri, as he goes on to take the bigger challenges that come his way.

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