(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 27, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.
Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 38, 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.)
Kashmir lacks facilities for physically challenged people!
Srinagar: The Kashmir conflict, now in its third decade, has left almost a million people disabled, psychologically or physically, say the experts.
Although the authorities make tall claims of rehabilitation of these people but independent organizations working for their welfare allege of complete official apathy.
“There are nearly 10 lakh people in J&K with different types of disabilities including psychological and physical. Around six lakh such people are in Kashmir Valley alone,” says Javed Ahmad Tak, chairman 'Help Line', a non-governmental organization (NGO).
He says the concentration of physically challenged people is more in districts of Baramulla, Bandipora, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama.
“Psychological and orthopedic problems are more prevalent among the disabilities,” says Tak, attributing the problems to the armed conflict in the state.
“Since the inception of armed insurgency in J&K, we have experienced a geometrical increase in the cases of mental and orthopedic disability,” he said.
Tak further said that though the government claims to be spending millions of rupees on the welfare of these ill-fated people, but the ground situation is that disabled population of the state is a God forsaken lot.
In most of the Indian states there are special schools for the disabled children imparting education through various methods like the Brail system or sign language. But in Kashmir no such school exists.
“We don’t even get admission in normal schools for the reason that they don’t have the facilities for us,” complained Mustafa, a disabled boy.
Demanding introduction of Brail system of education and sign language in government schools, Tak said, “There are no separate schools in the state where Brail education system exists. Jammu and Kashmir is among the few states in India which are yet to introduce Brail technique of education in the schools.”
In 2009, Delhi High Court ordered all the schools of different states to hire “special educators” for students with disabilities “but alas J&K is yet to hire even a single educator,” said Tak.
“We demand the government to implement Jammu and Kashmir Persons with Disabilities Act 1998 in letter and spirit. We don’t need meager amount of Rs 400 as monthly pension but education which can empower us. The Act guarantees us a dignified life,” said he.
Tak further said that there are few private organizations like ‘Shafqat School’ or ‘Chotey Taray’ working for disabled people. But “when it comes to facilities, they have enough facilities to deal with mentally-retarded people but have nothing to offer to the blind, dumb and deaf.”
“Educational system in the state has been made for children with high levels of concentration and attention. These might be the majority of children, but they are not the all. There is good percentage of children with intellectual and artistic deficiencies and other communication disorders,” says noted psychiatrist Dr. Mushtaq Margoob.
He said there is need to recognize the strengths of specially-abled children so that their areas of strength are utilized. “This could be done only when we have proper facilities available in schools,” he suggested.