DR. BASHIR A DABLA
The fact stands with a lot of evidence that the phenomenon of disability was expanding in Kashmir and has reached to the extreme level. More important is the point that disability was emerging fast as a social phenomenon. That is not only undesirable but socially disastrous. That is what was conveyed in a news report in this paper [Sept. 20 – Oct. 6, 2012] on the disabled children in Kashmir valley which quoted two extreme forms of cases in this regard. The details of these cases were as follows:
[a] For some time, I felt bad. I even cursed myself for giving birth to disabled children. But, then I realized that it was my fate. I lived with it. Her family is living now in isolation. Their relatives avoid visiting them and they are not invited to social gatherings. Even my brothers and sisters do not contact us now. So what if my children are not normal? I cannot disown them. I love them more than my life.
[b] He was abandoned by her mother when he was barely six months old and disabled. Without any care, she left him in husband’s family where his father took his care. But, after some years, his father was killed as he was a militant. Since family had no income, his disability could not be treated medically. Now, he has turned a mentally deranged person and had adopted repulsive behaviour and uses abusive language.
Both these cases of disability reveal deteriorating social situation prevailing in Kashmir, which has developed some particular features. First, personal disability stands less torturous and hurting than social disability, i.e. when the society starts responding towards disability in a collective manner and it becomes a social problem. Second, social taboos, stigma and restrictions are imposed on the suffering individuals and their families, resulting in out-casting and ostracizing them in society. Third, the disabled are thrown out of competition. Though many of them are differently-abled and desire to work in all fields of life, they are neither encouraged nor recommended. Fourth, the degree of disability is increased more and more by the negative societal attitude and response. Fifth, this situation reach to its extreme when there is repulsion and rejection of disabled from the mainstream of life. Many of these and other related observations have been made in a famous book by Eric Goffman entitled Stigma and identity.
In Kashmir, the problem of disability [which has got highest disability rate in the country] has been responded more or less in the same pattern. That is what comes out of the report in Kashmir Life. This response varies from social disassociation to social exclusiveness and from social differentiation to social discrimination. This social offence against disabled, though not in extreme form, goes against the ideas and ideals of humanity and civilization.
As has been explained above, social disability is worse than individual disability. So, there is a social alarm. All that is done at the government level is medically needed. But, what is socially needed is the requirement of humanity, civilization, culture and religion to deal with this issue in a comprehensive manner.