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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Divyangs’ movement for change in political system

Over 200 physically challenged citizens gather at election office, demand nomination forms to contest LS election

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 19, 2019 11:53 IST
S Raju and Utkarsha Tyagi
S Raju and Utkarsha Tyagi
Hindustan Times, Meerut
divyang movement,divyang elections
(HT)

For the past six months, physically challenged citizens of Meerut have been running a ‘silent campaign’ – #1857 Dobara – in the virtual world (social media), seeking a change in the political system and a solution to their problems.

On Monday, this movement surfaced in reality on the first day of nominations for Lok Sabha elections when more than 200 ‘divyangs’ accompanied by university students and ‘kinnars’ converged at the election office and demanded nomination forms saying they wanted to contest the election to bring change in the system.

They held placards reading ‘Ab Ki Baar NOTA Nahi Namankan Karenge (not NOTA, will file nomination this time).

Their demand for nomination forms sent officials into a tizzy. To disperse the crowd, officials directed them to download the forms from the Election Commission’s website as they couldn’t provide such a large number of forms.

Referring to the election rule book, the crowd said officials couldn’t deny them nomination forms. The ruckus went on for over four hours and officials finally agreed to provide them 43 nomination forms.

The ‘divyangs’ went back saying they would visit the office again on Tuesday to seek the remaining forms.

“We aim to file 2,000 nominations from Meerut seat to contest the election,” said Devendra Hoon, a physically challenged person who has been pursuing PHd in economics from the CCS University.

On being asked why Meerut, he explained: “Meerut is a land of revolution, from where the First War of Independence was started in 1857. This is also a kind of revolution, which we want to bring into our political system that assures solution to our problems.”

Hoon said ‘divyangs’ have been running the campaign #1857 Dobara for six months. It has been on in social media and thousands of people have joined it.

He accused politicians and political system of ignoring the physically challenged people’s problems, which has multiplied their plight.

Divyangs first started a campaign for NOTA in 2007. In the next election (2012), the Election Commission included it in EVMs.

Ravi Kumar, a gold medalist in para athletics, said: “I believe NOTA is no longer an effective tool to bring changes in the political system. Therefore, we have decided to file nominations and contest elections in order to formulate policies for the physically challenged people.”

“We are physically challenged and it is a reality. Calling us with a new name ‘divyang’ will not end our plight. It is simply an eyewash,” said an M Phil degree holder Gulzar Saifi who lost his legs due to polio. His short film about polio vaccination in India, ‘The Final Inch’, was nominated for the Oscars.

“It’s time to fight for our rights and to get a system to solve our problems. For this, the physically challenged people of this city have chosen this new way to bring a revolution in the political system,” said majority of people who gathered outside the election office.

These people also expressed their gratitude to university students and ‘kinnars’ for supporting their movement, said Nitin Maheshwari, another ‘divyang’.

First Published: Mar 19, 2019 11:53 IST

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