Disability rights activists and organisations in the city are opposing the Central government’s decision to rename the Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities to incorporate the word ‘divyang’ (instead of viklang) in its Hindi and English nomenclatures.
On Tuesday, social media was filled with status messages of persons with disabilities saying they did not want to be labelled divyang, which means divine body. “This is regressive terminology, which is dehumanising persons with disabilities – human diversities cannot be divine,” said B. Meenkashi of Equals, Centre for Promotion of Social Justice. “It also absolves the responsibility of the community and the government by making this is an individual rather than a social issue. Any identity should have a purpose — the purpose being that the government upholds the rights of marginalised people. This does not do that,” she said.
Despite several petitions and communications to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment since December 2015, the terminology has been pushed through, ignoring the representations of persons with disabilities, said Vaishnavi Jayakumar, member, Disability Rights Alliance, Tamil Nadu. “Whatever is decided on the terminology for the disabled, persons with disabilities should be a part of the exercise. There is a lacuna in Indian languages for words for persons with disabilities and some words have not kept pace with the rights movement. This could have been an opportunity to formulate some, in a participatory manner,” she said.
This is just political scoring, said T.M.N. Deepak, State president, December 3 Movement. “This is an undemocratic way of labelling us. Terminology is not going to make a big difference without meaningful implementation of schemes meant for the disabled,” he said.
The Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers, State general secretary, S. Namburajan, said they were calling for the withdrawal of divyang. “We are opposed to this terminology,” he said.
Centre to rename Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities