Parvez Ahmad Dar, 37, lost his eyesight after being a victim of a grenade blast in May 1991 when he was walking toward his home in Maisuma area of Srinagar.
Dar, who was 10 then, says it was better if he would have died in the blast because the official apathy toward the handicapped people in the State has left him hopeless.
“The government treats me and many others like me as filth flowing in a sewer,” he says.
For many like him, who have been left handicapped in the turmoil since 1990, the real struggle starts after the incident.
So far, Dar has not received any compensation from the government or any other social welfare organisation.
He says whenever the handicapped people have hit streets demanding their rights, the government has responded with force.
In 2002, Dar suffered a massive heart attack, which he says was a result of continuous stress he had been enduring due to the growing financial constraints in the family.
“My father has passed away and I have an unmarried sister,” Dar says. “I myself can’t earn and I have to spend hundreds of rupees every Monday in the hospital.”
Terming NGOs as money-minting centres, Dar says no NGO has paid him anything.
“They (NGOs) don’t work for the welfare of the deserving handicapped people,” he says.
According to Dar, the official apathy has led him to believe that there is no space for a person with disability.
He says the government has been providing jobs to pellet victims but has not paid any heed to his SRO-43 case under which he could get a job when his father died a decade ago.
Dar’s is not a lone story.
Those disabled by conflict are living lives worse than death.
For Ishtiyaq Ahmad Shah, a resident of Buber Nag village of Kupwara, the ordeal started when he was shot at point-blank range in the August of 1996 allegedly by the Special Task Force (STF) men who barged into his maternal uncle’s house in Chowgal, Handwara at 11.30 pm.
“The bullet hit my right thigh which left me 75 percent disabled,” Shah says.
He alleged that the STF along with the local Army unit tortured him brutally before shooting him down.
“I was pursuing Bachelors in Science at that time. My right side is completely paralysed. My left leg is 50 percent disabled,” Shah says.
Shah has also been rendered almost impotent due to the spinal injury and torture on that ill-fated night.
Shah, who now runs a small grocery shop, castigates the successive governments for paying him just Rs 25,000 as compensation.
He says his case for due compensation of Rs 2.25 lakh has been lingering in the High Court for the past two decades.
“The Principal Secretary Home R.K Goyal declined the payment of Rs 2.25 lakh even though it was as per the HC directives. I again moved the court but my case is still pending,” he says.
On the help of NGOs, Shah says the whole sector was a farce.
“No NGO has helped me in any way,” he says.
Shah now wants his basic right of due compensation to be respected through the court.
“I couldn’t study further after the incident. I opened this shop with a mere Rs 500 but now I want my compensation from the government,” he says.
Shah alleged that the government forces also beat up his uncle and women at home.
“The Army again picked me up in 2004 and kept me in detention but now they can’t threaten me anymore,” he says.“Life for me is now just about surviving.”
Shah says he was not involved in any subversive or militant activity.
“This happened to me like it happens to other people in Kashmir,” he says.
Ilyas Ahmad Bajad, 43, a resident of Dubin village of Bandipora was shot multiple times in both legs in the summer of 2003.
He says that two unidentified gunmen walked into his house on 26th July 2003 and took him to an adjoining village of Onagam.
“They shot indiscriminately at both my legs,” he says.
Subsequently, Bajad’s right leg was amputated.
He now walks with the help of crutches.
Bajad says the real fight for him started after the incident.
“Police had indicted me in a case of wood smuggling. They had put false witnesses who never came to the court,” he says.
According to Bajad, the case against him went on for seven years and then he was exonerated.
He castigates the government and NGOs for failing disabled persons like him.
Bajad says he is now worried about the future of his eight children as he earns no livelihood to support them.
“Nobody has paid me anything till now,” he says. “My assailants were never identified.”
For Gulzar Ahmad Mir, a resident of Warsun area of Kupwara, the disability came through a faceless assailant.
In the afternoon of May 2002, he had taken his livestock to Tunga Top forest area when he accidentally stumbled upon a landmine.
He now only remembers the sound of the explosion as he fell unconscious immediately.
With both legs amputated, the government has paid him just Rs 75,000 and pays him Rs 700 per month which is not enough for his family of 10.
“I have six daughters and two sons and I can’t provide for them,” he says.
Mir says he had to fight for the compensation with the Army.
“I won the case finally and Army admitted their mistake and paid me Rs 12 lakh but the expenses encountered on the case were some 7 lakh,” he says.
Ironically, for Bajad, the Army men involved in the negligence were never brought to justice.
“They are still free and I don’t even know them,” he says.
Bajad says the government and NGOs only help those victims who can be used for public relations.
“They help those victims who they can use for furthering their own benefit. Till now nobody has come to me with any financial assistance or otherwise,” he says.
In a different incident of cross-firing on 27th May 1992, Bashir Ahmad Wani, a resident of Narbal was disabled for life.
A bullet pierced his head from left side leaving half his body parlayed.
Wani, who was 15 then, was caught up in a cross firing at Batpora area after a pro-freedom procession was fired at.
“I don’t know who was firing from where but then a bullet hit my head and I fell unconscious,” he says.
Wani says since then he has only received a meagre Rs 20,000 as compensation.
“Life has been a struggle since then and my parents are the only two people who have been taking care of me,” he says.
Wani says the government and other social welfare organisations never helped him.
Interestingly, the monthly assistance of Rs 400 by Social Welfare department for Wani has not been paid since last year.
“I have to buy medicines every month for thousands of rupees. My father and mother somehow manage it,” he says.
The men who fired at the procession have not been identified until now.
Wani terms it as a “travesty of justice”
“I wanted to know who they were but could never know,” he says.
Coping up with the paralysed left side on his own, Wani has never gone to court for getting any compensation.
“What good could compensation have done to me when the men behind the incident were never identified?” he says.
A study titled ‘Disabled Population: A Temporal Study of Jammu and Kashmir’ conducted by a research scholar of Annamalai University in 2015 states human rights violation as the main reason behind disabilities in Jammu Kashmir.
“Majority of the current disabilities occurred as a result of usage of military power in which hundreds and thousands were beaten mercilessly. According to Indian human rights report 2008, 42,147 persons have been killed in the violence till February 2007 of which 48 percent were militants, 11 percent were security personnel and 27 percent were civilians,” the study reads.
Quoting the Indian human rights report 2008, the study further states, “The district level data revealed that military areas were affected badly and are having more disabilities than that of those areas were their interferences is less. The intensity of human rights can be revealed from the fact that more than one lakh disabilities are the conflict victims.”
The study suggests the State government as well as Government of India “to reform their attitude toward the people of the State and to treat the people of the State as human as people in other regions of the country.”
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Convenor, KhurramParvez says the most ironical thing in cases of persons disabled since 1990s was that the victim had to themselves prove that they were wronged.
“In normal situations, the prosecuting officer is from the State, who as per the investigation brings the culprits to justice but here in the Valley, the victim has to prove against the State that he was disabled by someone,” Parvez says.
He says the society at large and government in particular had a deep-rooted sense of narrow-mindedness against the handicapped people.
“We as a society have this pre-conceived notion that somebody who gets disabled in an accident is a sinner of the highest grade. If that was the case then very few people would have their arms and legs intact here,” Parvez says.
He says the same attitude had engulfed the policy-making institutions of the State where office bearers think they were providing things to disabled persons out of their benevolent nature.
“They don’t think it is their due right,” Parvez says.
He says the NGOs had themselves limited their scope to just seeking quota for the disabled people.
“The disabled people are only seeking equal opportunities but they have been made invisible by the government,” he says. “The government is happy if these people sit at home.”
He cited the example of the footpaths not having access ramps for the disabled.
“This depicts our lack of thinking toward a section with a huge number,” he adds.
Chairman International Forum for Justice J&K, AhsanUntoo says there was a category of disabled people who were not even considered disabled by anyone.
“There are men and women who became infertile due to torture in captivity. They are also disabled but nobody has ever considered them as disabled,” he says.
Untoo says there were hundreds of such cases in the Valley.
He says the number of disabled people in the turmoil since 1990 had been in lakhs with no major study carried out focussing on this.
Adil Rashid Vaid, Project Manager Humanity Welfare, an NGO, says the issue was not about government compensation to the handicapped victim but about providing education and employment opportunities to these victims.
He says reservation in jobs for the disabled persons had been guaranteed under the Person with Disabilities Act of Parliament which had not been implemented in the State.
“The government made false promises. They had assured us that during this year’s budget session, the act will be ratified by the legislature but it was never tabled in the house,” he says.
On the performance of NGOs working in the sector, Vaid says everybody has been working as per their own strengths and varied objectives.
“Every NGO is trying to contribute,” he says.
He says the compensation provided by the government was very less which in any case would not be of any help to disability victims.
Commissioner for Disabled People, Iqbal Lone says the GoI’s ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016’ had been modified for the State but the legislative process was stuck as the implementation of the act had financial implications.
“It is a money bill now. The finance minister has now decided to accord sanction to it. In coming months it will be ready,” Lone says.
He says the government right now does not have the actual number of people disabled in the turmoil but the finance department had decided to allocate funds under which a baseline survey would be conducted by the Social Welfare department for providing rehabilitation and other allied packages to these people.
“We have been relying on 2011 census which has put the number of disabled people at 3.61 lakh but we will soon have a baseline survey,” he says.
On many disabled persons not receiving a monthly stipend on time under the social security schemes, Lone says the department had been providing money to 1.5 lakh people on time.
“Only some, 10-15 people, will have this issue of non-payment,” he says.
Lone says the government was soon going to provide the UID based cards to all disabled people which would be linked to Aadhaar cards.
He says under the current Disabled Person’s Act, there was no provision of compensation payment for people who had been rendered disabled through accidents.
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