Javed Abidi - Tribute by Rati Misra, Advisor, NCPEDP

In our series of tributes to Javed Abidi, the late disability rights leader, Rati Misra, Advisor, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), talks about the best way to keep his legacy alive.

There were many instances of setbacks, of disappointments, of disagreements. The latest perhaps being around at the time of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. But Mr Abidi sort of met them all head on. And I think that, that courage comes from the courage of conviction. He knew that what he stood for, what he advocated for, even at that point may have had certain people (replace disagreeing) with him. But he had that courage of conviction and, therefore, he was not scared. He was never apologetic. He was never defeated. And that was the person that he was.

I think his own sensitivity, his own sensibility. He understood the needs of different people, he understood the political system of the country, he understood the social system of the country so well. So everything that he did was never addressed at a certain group or a certain disability. It was always intended to be cross disability that was by design, that became by default, everything that NCPEDP did. It was inclusive of all, all disabilities were represented.

He took special care to make sure that happened, you know all meetings, and whatever he did people with all disabilities were part of the groups that went with him, that advocated with him, that lobbied with him. So people may have disagreed with him, but he was able to convince them that whatever he said, whatever he was doing, whatever he was championing for at that point of time, was in their best interest.

He was definitely the Father of the movement. I mean, in a recent tribute, George Abraham has actually said that he was to the disability movement what Gandhi was to the Independence movement. And that is absolutely so correct. The first man who wove together these isolated disability groups into one whole, the way he fought, he took, he took the movement to every part of the country South, East, West, North. He wove them all together. He brought all the disabilities on to a common platform. I think that is where the movement actually started. Otherwise there were people working in the sector, but a consolidated disability rights movement in India definitely started with his efforts.

We have to continue the work that he did, continue to believe in advocacy, don't get swayed by the current political environment around us where everyone is scared to be talking the truth or to be lobbying for what we think is right. And I think that is the legacy that we have to keep alive, we have to take forward his work, we have to take forward his vision, take the right thinking to its logical conclusion.

All these young advocates that he created, how do we bring them together, how do we continue a consolidated voice demanding what is our right. I think that is the legacy we owe him

There are many personal instances. Starting with he was generous to a fault. He was this very harsh, formal person on one hand and coolest, the most fun, the most whacky, the most interesting, the most generous, the most loyal person on the other side. Also, he had no personal agendas. So unlike many disability organizations that have been in this space for so long 20 years, two decades, we have nothing.

We don't have our building, we have nothing. Mr Abidi always said you could do advocacy in a single room. From one single room with one single person was his system. He wasn't interested in building institutions of that nature. That was Mr Abidi. That was the charisma of the man. The giant that he was.

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