World Disability Day!

Saima Bhat

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated on December 3 to promote awareness and mobilise support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and their development. UN started celebrating this day since 1992.

But the story is altogether different in Kashmir. Here people with disabilities are even deprived of basic facilities of life.

In my five years career as journalist I have witnessed how every year on December 3, these people assemble in press colony hoping for a respectable existence. But instead of helping them out and making them feel part of the society, they are beaten up and bundled into police vehicles like cattle. I fail to understand why we cannot show a bit of compassion towards these people. Why state has no other response to people’s genuine grievances other than brute force! They are not protesting for ‘Azadi’, salary hike, or promotion in services or asking for jobs. All they want is a dignified existence so that they are not considered as “burdens” by their families or by the society they live in.

One of the basic demands these people are fighting for since long is construction of ramps in all public and private building. This demand is directly related to their mobility. No doubt in last few years a few positive steps were taken in this regard, but that is not enough.

Apart from infrastructure woes, there are no efforts from the government to help such people excel in life. Ironically there are no schools for specially-abled kids in Kashmir. Just one school for deaf and dumb, run by a NGO in Solina, Srinagar (only up to 9th class).

And those who want to pursue studies after 9th class have to attend regular schools and compete with other normal kids. Despite their disabilities these kids are not given any concession by these “normal” schools.

But it seems the society has turned completely immune to their woes. Even Haemophilic patients, who were protesting against lack of medicines in government hospitals, were treated with batons and kicks.

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