International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Disability and Armed Conflict
The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. The UN Convention of 2006 follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches towards persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing them as people with rights, who are capable of making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society. The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all people with any type of disability must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedom. It clarifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for them so as to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated and where protection of rights must be reinforced.
Building on many decades of UN’s work in the field of disability, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks. This year the theme for international day for persons with disabilities focuses on empowering persons with disabilities for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”. Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can expedite the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote resilient society for all including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action and urban development. Governments, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, academic institutions and the private sector need to work as a “team” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However contrary to this, there is lack of commitment on part of our state besides less of awareness as well as resources and sensitivity among the people as a result of which the differently-abled population faces immense hardships and discrimination.
Approximately there are 500 million people with disabilities in the states affected by armed conflict. Armed conflict not only renders disability but it also inflicts indirect harm to people with disabilities who may face physical and communication barriers for accessing emergency and humanitarian assistance, rendering them more vulnerable to harm and potentially exacerbating a pre-existing impairment. Persons with disabilities are also at higher risk of injury or death during the period of armed conflict, either as specific targets or through insufficient support to allow them to flee from the troubled spot of violence. Despite the high number of persons with disabilities affected by armed conflict zones and the particular support they need, persons with disabilities are too often the forgotten victims of armed conflict.
As per census 2011, the total population of persons with disabilities in Jammu and Kashmir is 3,61,153 but the independent research conducted by various NGOs shows that the state has around 6 lakh population of persons with disabilities with 1, 20, 000 orthopedic disable persons and around 90,000 persons facing mild to severe types of mental illness disabilities. The frontier districts in our state are worst hit areas where the rate of disability is much higher than the national average and these areas are highly vulnerable due to the frequent shelling and cross firing between India and Pakistan. In every household, there is, at least, one person with a disability and among the inhabitants of these frontier districts, the women and children are highly vulnerable due to insufficient shelter and support.
The ongoing conflict in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has added thousands of people into the disability sector in the year 2008 followed by 2010 and more particularly during the bloody summer of 2016 after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani. The post-Burhan Wani period resulted in the series of protests which were met with a ruthless response from the state forces who fired hundreds of thousands of pellets on the civilian crowds, leaving hundreds blinded wherein the 19-month-old Hiba Jan of Kapran, Shopian is the latest victim. A doctor in the city hospital in Srinagar has described her as the youngest pellet victim in the Kashmir valley. Similarly during summer 2016, as per reports 17000 adults and children got injured in several clashes between the youth and forces. Now a new trend has emerged in a valley about the clashes between the youth and the forces which has become a routine at the encounter sites is also adding the number of disabilities which is a matter of concern for all of us. The truth is we all face hardships of some kind in the conflict zones but we never know the struggles of a person with disabilities are going through their lives. The ongoing conflict has devastated the lives of millions of people across the globe. The need of the hour is to address the issues of conflict zones in light of their historical context with empathy; to bring peace and prosperity in the world in general and in the conflict zones in particular to save the lives of people from death, disability, and destruction. That is only possible through sustainable dialogue and reconciliation.
The author has done Ph.D. from Pondicherry Central University. He is an occasional writer and Poet. The views expressed by the author are personal and do not necessarily reflect views of the institution he is associated.
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