Baton-charging visually-impaired persons is a cruel and callous act of violence. The Lahore police’s actions of beating protesters at Mall Road, Kalma Chowk, and outside the chief minister’s house requires a scathing review. The police force has directly demonstrated that the security of one man was more significant that the security, pain and suffering of an entire group of visually-impaired protesters. Unless there was a threat to one’s life, the use of force by the police is unjustified.
Differently-abled persons in Pakistan are viewed as people who are merely taking up space and expected to live a passive life of little consequence or achievement. This mainstream view needs to be eradicated. The protesters were rightfully demanding their inclusion in government. Especially in Pakistan, it is an insurmountable task to fight for one’s rights without being involved in government. Considering that blind persons and many other types of differently-abled people have been neglected by the state, we support the courage of the protesters and simultaneously recognise that the police force needs to be taken to task. If foul play on the protesters’ part emerges, it would be fair to dish out appropriate punishment. However, the latter seems unlikely.
The Punjab government owes its attention to the protesting party. The chief minister showed disrespect to protesters, who have historically been marginalised, by failing to dignify their cause with even a brief appearance or acknowledgement. Ignoring these members of society is the wrong course of action if the aim is to cease the roadblocks and return order. Such protests have been a long time coming. Being visually impaired does not mean one is destined to remain illiterate. There are many greats in the world who have successfully reversed stigmas and proven their talents and abilities for multiple intelligences. If our politicians were true leaders, they would recognise the strengths of all members of society and facilitate them in contributing their part to the betterment of the city, province or country.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2018.