Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Truly a Black Day!

Politicians may not care, but to Kashmir's physically challenged people, the International Day for Persons with Disabilities is like no other. Javed's moving tribute followed by reports on various demonstrations held in the valley, followed by an editorial

(Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 37, was born in Bijbehara in the Anantnag district. He received his schooling from Government schools in Bijbehara, and his B.Sc. degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 he became a victim of a terrorist bullet which hit his spine and disabled him for the rest of his life. However, he overcome mental and physical odds to complete his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, and also completed certificate courses in Human Rights and Computers from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Although wheel-chair bound, Mr. Tak is recognized as a leader who has relentlessly and with extreme passion taken up the cause of disabled people in J&K, seeking full citizen rights guaranteed under the J&K Disability Act but never implemented in the past. He is a founder-member of numerous NGO's dealing with issues and sensitizing public about challenges faces by physically handicapped people in Kashmir. He has received numerous awards and citations for his selfless work and has attended numerous workshops on disability rights around the country.)


Most of us think that the Physically Challenged persons are less fortunate and have less exposure to the world; it is not true. God has compensated their disability with some of the sharpest instincts. That is why some call us Differently Abled.

Persons with disabilities are discriminated at all levels in the society. This is because the charity model of disability has been adopted by the stake holders all around the country for the so called empowerment of the persons with disabilities. This country has ratified UN – Convention for the Rights of the persons with disabilities and vigorous process is on to replace the existing Disability Act – 1995 (Equal opportunities, Protection of the Rights and full participation) and amend National Trust Act – 1999, Rehabilitation Council of India Act – 1992 and Mental Health Act – 1987. All these Acts have one mandate - to remove discrimination and create inclusive society. But at gross-roots level things are quite contrary to all this.

Persons with disabilities are facing intense discrimination at all levels including education, employment, accessibility, and living independently in the community. There is social stigma stuck to severe disabilities, forcing such persons to live a dependent life. Anyhow handful of persons with disabilities, become successful in overcoming immense challenges.

There is no school with appropriate teaching facilities where children with disabilities can continue their education through special educators and appropriate learning material. There is no feasible curriculum available with the State Board and the Universities in our state in comparison to many other states in the country. Some physically disabled students have less healthy upper limbs or arms still they have to compete in the normal schooling standards and examinations with the normal students with the same time available for normal students with good health. Almost all severe physically challenged students face painful conditions but they are bound to ignore the pain and face the exams with others. There is no special provision to accommodate students with loco-motor disabilities to take examination or attend classes .

Students facing disability by birth are carried by their parents to the class room and taken back home. Neither there is any support system nor any reasonable accommodation available for such students. Still a number of severe disabled students overcome these challenges and attain Degrees.

But at the time of employing the persons with disabilities the discrimination happens. The Circular No: 62-SW of 2001 Dated: 23-03-2001, has made us really handicapped. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment identifies teacher post for the Deaf, Mute, Blind, and for other severely disabled but here in our state such persons are dropped from the list with the only plea that the post of teacher has not been identified for them. It is very unfortunate that persons with either upper or both lower limb disabilities are not considered for any post here by the SSRB due to above mentioned circular.

Even officials with severe disabilities, like IAS and KAS officers, who are blind or have no upper or lower limbs have proved themselves fully capable. We have such cases to prove the point. Mr. Khursheed Malik served the state in capacity of Secretary in different departments on a wheel. He created a lasting impressions in the hearts of common people by serving the state with full dedication and honesty. Mr. Riyaz Beigh is serving the state as KAS officer. He has no upper working limbs, still he has been serving the people of state with dedication, commitment and dignity. In the same context Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat of Budran Budgam, working as teacher at Middle School in Kandhama, Beerwa, Budgam has been serving the masses like any other able bodied person. Mr. Tariq Bashir working as 10+2 lecturer in District Institute of Education and Training, Khanabal, Islamabad, was in the first attempt dropped as he applied for the post of teacher through SSRB. But later he was selected as 10+2 lecturer in History subject in the higher education department and is now posted at DIET Islamabad. He has changed the history and removed the stigma that blind people cannot teach.
Keeping such role models in view the above mentioned circular makes least sense. We are confused about the selection criteria formulated by the state in making recruitments through SSRB and PSC for the persons with disabilities in J&K state. In other states flawless policies and SROs exist to help the persons with disabilities of all sorts to seek education and employment .

On eve of this World Disability Day, Social Welfare Department needs to do some brain breaking on these issues.

Persons with disabilities spend more on their education and maintenance of life than normal people do. Because persons with severe disabilities, mainly using wheel chair, blind and dependent on crutches and other aids and appliance for their mobility can’t reach school and other places using normal transport. They have to spend a lot of time and money. Sometimes harsh climatic conditions keep them confined to home and they are unable to continue schooling. So they need additional tuitions to compete with other students. Sometimes a disabled student is 100% crippled thus fully dependent on high support needs. Like Mr. Waseem Feroz Matoo, whose mother carried him to the school and back home every time, from Nursery to class 8th. But even after completing B.A, B.Ed he was dropped from the Budgam teacher list with the only plea that his legs are disabled.

In 2010 a historic decision was passed by the double Bench in Apex Court (the Honorable Supreme Court of India) in case of Syed Bashir ud Din Qadri V/S State of J&K. Syed Bashir has been working as teacher in the Middle School Kanjinag, Awantipora in Pulwama District under Rehbar-e -Taleem scheme. He was disengaged on grounds that he is not using his arms and is not able to take food himself and cannot use the black board. But the honorable Supreme Court of India considered it as the severe case of discrimination under Article 22 of the JK persons with Disabilities Act 1998, guaranteeing equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation. Thus Orders were passed to reinstate syed Bashir who is presently working as teacher in the Kanjinag school.

Vocational Rehabilitation Centre for persons with disabilities, under ministry of Labor and employment was established in premises of Government Polytechnic College, Srinagar, on September 14, 2005. So far only 50 candidates with disabilities were registered for different trades. 25 of the registered candidates completed the courses and rest were dropped. The budget spent in lakhs could only empower 25 candidates. (Information Sought under RTI application reply under No: F.No: VRC-(SN) 11025/01/07/672 Dated: 17/10/2011.)

National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation NHFDC is another institution established at national level for providing opportunities of generating livelihood for the youth with disabilities across the country. In other states persons with disabilities enjoy loan facilities from the institution and are doing their business independently to live a life with dignity. But our state through the J&K SC/ST/OBC Corporation as the channeling agency for NHFDC has created another record. This year applications received from disabled people have been ignored, not a single person was covered so far. Out of allocated Rs. 52.00 Lacs not a single penny has been released for our state due to state’s lenient approach towards the matter. Thus again the scheme is failure in J&K. (information sought under reply of RTI application under No: SCSTBC/corp./RTI Act/2011/2155-56. Dated 01/11/2011).

National Planning Commission has declared 3% budget allocations in the 11th five year plan for the benefit of persons with disabilities through all departments. But as per information sought under RTI applications nothing special has been allocated by Company Affairs and Public Distribution Department and Department of Science and Technology J&K government ( under RTI reply No: CAPD/Plan/RTI/36/2001 Dated 17/11/2011 & No:- ST/Adm/61/2011 Dated: 18/11/2011. Other 6 Ministries/ Departments of J&K state viz Health, Education, Finance, Higher Education, asked for same information have failed to respond so far. )

Country has recently started process for harmonizing disability law 1995 with the UN – convention on Rights of persons with disabilities but the state is still discriminating with persons with mental retardation, autism, mental illness and multiple disabilities by not bringing National Trust Act 1999. Members of Legislative Assembly and Council should look into these voids; why best Acts of country are not adopted.

The corporate sector in J&K is also neglecting persons with disabilities. Apart from inaccessible websites all banks have inaccessible banking system for persons with disabilities. No ATM in our state is accessible to severely disabled people. Job reservation is not given to persons with disabilities in corporate sector.

A huge number of people visit civil secretariat but the persons using wheel chairs are asked by the security to call official whom we want to meet there. We are treated indifferently by the security there. Is it possible for all officials to give their contact numbers to the disabled people and would all officials make it easier for us to meet them in the offices. I personally wrote about the problem to the Honorable Chief Minister’s grievance cell; but, who cares?

We are forced to lament, protest and observe this day as a black day.

In Kashmir, it was a black day!

Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Alleging the government of being insensitive towards them, scores of differently- abled persons Saturday staged a peaceful demonstration at Press enclave here to observe the “World Disabled Day” as “Black Day” to press for their demands.

“Time and again, government is ignoring our plight. Had it not been so, we would not have lamented our hard luck. We want that our demands should be implemented in letter and spirit” president, All J&K Handicapped Association, Sajad Anwar Masoodi told media persons.

He accused the government of disregarding the genuine demands of handicapped persons. “On 26 May, 2011, we had a meeting with Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, where in we were assured that our grievances will be addressed within 45 days, however, our misery continues to torment us”, he lamented.

Meanwhile, the disabled persons demanded concessions in payments of revenue to the government, setting up of a handicapped advisory board, providing prosthesis aid and artificial limbs, introduction of Braille education system from primary to university level in the state, reservations in government jobs and enhancement of monthly pension.

“We also demand free medical treatment for the handicapped people in all the government-run hospitals in the state, dieselized motor cycles instead of the tricycle and 50 percent subsidy in loan and reservation in Indira Awas Yojana Program,” scores of disabled persons said.

Displaying placards to show their plight, the protestors lamented that being disabled, both government and the society have been neglecting them. “If someone would have come forward to our help, we would have been observing this day in a quit manner,” they said.

Later, the disabled persons tried to march to Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah’s residence here. However, as the protestors reached near the Sher-i-Kashmir Park, police restrained them from moving forward. In the milieu, police detained some of the protestors.

The agitating people alleged that they were thrashed by the people not being even slightly sensitive to their disabilities.

On World Disability Day, Physically Challenged Children Hold Demos

Demand protection of rights, implementation of Disability Act

Sameer Showkin Lone (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: On International Day for Persons with Disabilities, scores of physically challenged children Saturday held a candle light protest here at Press Enclave demanding safeguarding of their rights.

The protesting children were holding placards reading “We need no pension, but ensure our rights”. The children had assembled under the banner of Humanity Welfare Organization and demanded implementation J&K Persons with Disability Act, 1998 and fulfillment of their other pending demands. The protestors raised slogans against the “negligent” attitude of government towards them.

“It is the responsibility of the State to ensure our safe accessibility to schools, banks, hospitals and other departments,” said Ruby Jan, a class standard student from Wopzan Bijbehara.

Kashmir’s Disabled Lament Apathy

Despite an Act, no support coming

Zahid Maqbool

Srinagar: On the world disabled day, differently-able people in Kashmir are fighting for the basic rights amid the lack of implementation of J&K disabilities act laws from government and as well partial behavior from general public.

The J&K persons with Disability Act 1998 guarantees equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation has failed to empower people with disabilities because of negligence from successive regimes.“We had thought that it would help us now, but unfortunately it has hardly decreased our miseries. No one cares for us. Even after passing of more than 10 years law is not implemented” said Javed Ahmed Tak, Chairman,Humanity welfare organization Helpline an NGO.

The persons with disabilities also alleged that there is no provision or proper arrangement for education of their kind.“There is no school with appropriate teaching facilities where children with disabilities can continue their education through special educators and appropriate learning material. There is no feasible curriculum available with the state board and the universities in our state. There is no faculty for sign interpretation in our lone school for these children”. Tak said.

Talking about the discrimination of disabled children with other normal students in examinations he said, “Some physically disabled students have less healthy upper limbs or arms still they have to compete with the normal students. No extra time is given to students for answering the questions. Even in some cases where helper is allowed, no extra time is given to students.”

The differently-able people have even accused corporate houses of discrimination in employment and lack of provision in facilitating the movement of these people while constructing corporate buildings.
“There is no facility for facilitating our entry in corporate offices. I will give you an example of central corporate office of banks. I cannot go inside the building on my wheel chair. It is not only me, if tomorrow they will employ someone like me , how he will go up with it every day. There are no special software’s for Braille in ATM’s” .

The differently-able people say they are feeling very bad about the larger community who treat them differently.“Last time I went to an office for some official work. The officer told his subordinate to give him ten rupees.” I felt very bad. They think everyone on wheel chair is a beggar”
The Indian railways have barrier free entry in trains and railways stations but in Kashmir they have failed to provide so.

“We cannot go inside the train with wheel chair. It is not possible for us. As the entry is constructed in such a way that it becomes impossible for us to go inside” said, Hilal Mir.

Helping Hand
(Editorial in the Greater Kashmir)

Govt needs to go beyond token gestures to help people suffering from physical and mental disabilities

The World Disability Day, observed on 3rd of December, was marked by various functions, highlighting the plight of the physically disabled persons. On the occasion, we also get to hear the ministers and officials talk at length about the problems faced by physically disabled and the schemes meant for their welfare. They don’t go beyond the token gestures of giving prosthetic limbs, wheel chairs or cheques to some disabled persons. As a result, the real problems facing them remain unaddressed.

While the physically challenged persons have long been complaining about the government apathy, there has been no real effort on part of the authorities to address their grievances. Even the packages announced by New Delhi from time to time have nothing to offer to these hapless people. The preoccupation of the government to maintain law and order in the valley, particularly in the last three years, has meant that many vulnerable sections of the society continue to suffer. There has been a two-fold increase in the number of physically challenged persons in the valley over the last 10 years. According to Census 2001, there were around three lakh physically challenged persons across the state, which has increased to over seven lakh during the last 10 years. The increase in disability cases is attributed to firing, blasts, street protests and other such incidents.

Given the situation in the valley in the last three years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of persons rendered handicap in police and CRPF action. Persons who survive bullet and pellet injuries add to the ever-growing list. There has also been a surge in the mental disorder cases in the past two decades. Some non-governmental organizations like Medicos Sans Frontiers (MSF) have been doing their bit to help the people suffering from anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. According to MSF, 30 per cent of patients in the valley are suffering from anxiety and depression, 18 per cent are suffering from mental illness as a result of physical health problems, 15 per cent are mood related disorders and rest are suffering from psychological instability, domestic problems and trauma.

Among the affected lot, 60 per cent are women. Furthermore, during its studies, MSF has discovered that 50 per cent of these cases have trauma background and in one way or the other related to conflict. The government must take concrete steps to alleviate their sufferings. The government must live up to its claims of improving health sector. It must work for the betterment of persons suffering from physical and mental disabilities.

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