The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), a coalition of cross-disability rights groups from across the country, has condemned the “disrespectful and insensitive remarks” made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an interaction with students at the Smart India Hackathon 2019 organised by the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee on Saturday.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the NPRD demanded that the Prime Minister apologise to persons with disabilities for the statement. “The PM should under no circumstances be making such a remark. It also displays scant respect for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 according to which this constitutes an offence. The least the PM can do is apologise for his remarks.”
The NPRD statement comes in the wake of a remark made by Modi in his interaction with students during which a Uttarakhand-based BTech student started talking of her project to help students with dyslexia. “Dyslexic children are those whose learning and writing pace is very slow but creativity level and intelligence is quite good,” the student said, giving the example of Bollywood movie Taare Zameen Par. This was when Modi interjected to ask her, “Will your scheme help a kid who is 40-50 years old?” As the students laughed at his remark, he said, “In which case, the mother of such kids would be very happy.”
The NPRD statement said that instead of replying to a question raised by student, Modi made fun of dyslexia to take “potshots at his political rivals”. It said, “In an uncalled for and totally insensitive response where the Prime Minister tried to portray all dyslexic people in poor light. It is all the more unpardonable as it comes from a person holding such a high office. And this disgusting attitude comes from a person who had equated disability with divinity and coined the term “divyang”. Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign Narendra Modi had used terms like blind, deaf, lame etc. to belittle his rivals.”
It said several other political leaders too have made fun of persons with disabilities in the past, including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi using the word schizophrenic to describe Modi once.