Militancy Takes Its Toll On J&K's Scarred Minds
18 July 2003
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: Scarred by militancy, ravaged by blasts and tripped by the hidden landmines, Kashmir is limping. There are perhaps more physically challenged people in the state - innocent victims caught in the crossfire - than in any other part of India. Thirteen years of turmoil have also wrecked the Kashmiri psyche, with nearly every third family member on the brink of insanity. Statistics are grim but the state government has done little to address their problems. Though the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed the Persons with Disabilities Act in 1998, the law is in a limbo. The disabled are practically leading a life in 'house arrest'. While the law provides for three per cent reservation in government jobs for the physically challenged, very few have received their appointment letters. That mental illness is a disability under the Act is yet to be understood and except for scant facilities at a ragtag government hospital in downtown Srinagar, there is no infrastructure for psychiatric treatment in Kashmir. What is alarming is that rules have yet to be framed and a full-time disability commissioner has not been appointed. Though a central coordination committee was formed in Srinagar in 1999, the panel has not held a single meeting, nor has the executive committee been formed. At a meeting of NGOs working with the disabled in the state under the aegis of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), social activists painted a grim picture of the scenario. NCPEDP executive director Javed Abidi pointed out several lacunae in the law passed in the state Assembly. 'Though there is provision for reservation in education institutions in the Act passed in Parliament, there is no quota under the Kashmir Act. If the disabled are denied educational facilities, how can they get jobs?' he asked. There are no promotional avenues for the disabled in government jobs under the Act, he pointed out. Shafi Wani of the Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association said 'while there are 15 to 18 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Kashmir, why are the disabled - a silent minority suffering'. The pertinent question is that while the government demands a typing speed and computer knowledge for jobs for the physically challenged, what would they do who have just one hand or have lost both of them in a grenade explosion. Violence continues A Class XII student, Aijaz Ahmad, was killed when a policeman's gun suddenly went off in J&K's Ananatnag district on Friday. Aijaz and his friends were chatting with the cop when the incident happened. People came out on the streets, shouting slogans. A Lashkar-e-Tayyeba leader was killed and four soldiers hurt in an encounter in Baramulla on Thursday. Unknown gunmen killed a policewoman at Tral.