Pune police clash with hearing impaired protestors in alleged baton-charge
Hearing impaired youth in Pune protesting against the issuance of disability certificates to ineligible persons were subjected to a baton charge by police on Monday, allege organisers.
The police, however, claim it was “mild force” to restrain the protestors at the social welfare commissionerate in Bund Garden.
The 11,000 hearing impaired youth had assembled along with the representatives of State Level Association of the Deaf (SLAD) in front of the commissionerate during the afternoon when the incident happened.
Suhas Bawache, deputy commisisoner of police (zone I), said, “It is not a lathi charge incident. A scuffle broke out between the protestors and the police as the former were getting out of control. We took necessary steps to prevent them from going berserk as they were full of aggression. The Bund Garden police station Incharge fell in the scuffle and got injured. He even broke his glasses. The policemen were surrounded by the agitators,” he said.
Following the incident, protestors refused to leave the place.
Manoj Patwari, president, State Level Association of the Deaf, said, “Two protestors were seriously injured and 31 were hurt. They are being treated at Sassoon General Hospital.”
Through an interpreter, Pradeep More, secretary of the association, said their demands included the right to quality education, provision of trained interpreters for deaf students and non-issuance of disability certificates to able-bodied persons.
“There are 15 lakh deaf in Maharashtra, which is a sizeable number; and we represent them,” said Patwari. “For years, our association and other smaller groups have been asking the government to take steps to address their welfare, be it education or employment. However, despite many petitions no concrete step has been taken,” he said.
Aniket Selgaonkar, vice-president, of the association, said that they have evidence that bogus certificates were issued to abled youth. “I have written complaints about it, but the commissioner did not even acknowledge it,” he said.
According to Aniket, the protestors were seeking replies from the department for their basic demands of inclusive education system that meets the needs of deaf students. Children who are 100% deaf are not getting quality education under the existing facilities due to lack of sign language and good teachers. The government is also not doing anything against the atrocities that the deaf face daily. The other demands is that deaf people be exempted from giving written tests for jobs as they are unable to prepare well for lack of an education.
During the rally, the protestors also pointed out the fraudulent distribution of disability certificates to able-bodied persons. “When we tried to take out a rally, the police ordered a lathi charge in which several of our protesters were injured. They also detained some of the youth,” said More.
The incident has invited condemnation from people from different walks of life. “Whatever the reason be, it is shameful for treating the youth with disabilities like this. If there is an ounce of shame left, the government should apologise to these youth and action should be taken against the insensitive officers,” said Vijay Kumbhar, RTI activist.
Bacchu Kadu, member of the legislative assembly (MLA), said that action should be taken against police. “The government is not serious and these people (protestors) are led to hold only meeting after meetings without any decision being taken by authorities for their welfare.”
Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena member of legislative council, said, “Their demands are legitimate, but the police action should be probed and I will bring this issue in the next assembly sitting. Although one has to understand that the police might have reacted as the social welfare office is adjacent to the police commissionerate which always under tight security.”
Meanwhile, Baramati Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule termed the police lathi charge as “shameful” and hit out at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio. “Differently-abled youth indulging in a peaceful protest have been lathi-charged by the police. The CM has no moral right to continue. He should resign immediately,” the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader said.
With agency inputs