By Jayashree Nandi, TNN | Jan 23, 2013,
“With difficulty we had managed to convince the government to have a tableau on the disabled. When we finally have one, the inscription on it is so offensive that it has ruined all the work we had done on the issue. To add further insult, the commentator will repeat the word nishakt constantly and the entire country will listen to it. It’s an abusive word,” said Javed Abidi, convener of Disability Rights Group.
The defence ministry has agreed to change the word on the tableau but says it needs a written request from the department of disability affairs. Stuti Kacker, secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment, said the department was trying its best to change the name. “I can only refer the matter. We hope a decision will be taken quickly,” she said.
Activists say it’s derogatory, demand change of name
Even if the inscription on the tableau is changed, the name of the department will remain till a change is approved by the Cabinet. Poonam Natarajan, chairwoman of National Trust, agreed that nishaktata is an inappropriate term. “Of course, it has to be changed. I think they are trying to change it to viklang jan karyashala. But the change has to be made at the Cabinet level,” she said.
“We noticed the word a few days ago while rehearsing. It’s very derogatory. In fact, state governments such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh still use the word apang (crippled), which is also demeaning. There is very little awareness about disability righ8ts,” said Pradeep Raj, a disability rights activist who is rehearsing for the Republic Day with 22 other youths with disabilities. Pradeep’s group first noticed the inscription on the tableau.
Abidi felt ‘nishaktata’ reminded him of the word ‘handicapped’, which was also considered offensive by disability rights activists. “We have moved on. No one uses the word handicapped anymore. It originated after the world war when disabled soldiers used to beg on the streets of Europe with a cap in their hands. In the 1990s, the term was phased out as it was considered offensive. Now even United Nations uses the word ‘disability’. In Hindi it should be viklang and definitely not nishakt,” he said.
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