Kohima: Diethono Nakhro is a relieved woman. After leading the fight for inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society for years, she’s finally seeing a ray of hope after the Nagaland government recently constituted a state advisory board on disability as necessitated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.
This is widely seen as a significant move towards recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities. Nakhro, a leading voice for disability rights in Nagaland, has been appointed as a member in the advisory board.
The RPWD Act was passed by the Indian Parliament to fulfill its obligation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007. As per the Act, every state in India was supposed to notify the rules and start implementation within six months. Nagaland was, of course, running behind schedule.
Speaking to EastMojo, Nakhro said: “I wasn’t born disabled. I met with an accident in 2006 and had a spinal injury that left me in a vegetative state for almost a year. Having lived a good part of my life without disabilities, the fight against my depression and the negative attitude from society was initially tough, but I was determined to speak up about it and make myself heard.”
Nakhro added: “Nagaland has long delayed in officially declaring the RPWD Act. States and Union territories were required to notify the Act within six months, yet no action was taken. So, we have been fighting for our rights.”
Even with the earlier Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, which has now been repealed, persons with disabilities were neglected and officials responsible for executing and implementing the Act were unaware about their rights, lamented Nakhro. “Now that the Nagaland government has recognised the Act, it is a huge milestone for us. At the same time, this is just a first step. A lot more needs to be done urgently and for faster implementation of the laws under the Act,” added Nakhro, who pens her thoughts on a blog titled, ‘That Angami Girl’.
Like most societies, differently-abled persons in Nagaland are often ‘over-protected’ by their families and are looked at with ‘pity’ by the people rather than the creation of awareness about their rights and opportunities.
As far as infrastructure is concerned, the state only has a couple of accessible places for persons with disabilities, both in the public and private sectors, and is way behind when it comes to ensuring free education for such people.