Kerala wheelchair user faces police harassment, organizations rally in support
Despite laws to protect and safeguard people with disabilities, they often fail on the ground, as Biju Joseph from Kerala recently found out.
A wheelchair user from Idukki, Joseph also heads the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) in the region. He is a well-known singer who has performed in different parts of the state with his troupe.
Last week, Joseph and his band were at Kudiyanmala in Kannur for a show and followed the procedure seeking police permission. At the police station, it is alleged that Sub Inspector (SI) Sreejesh started abusing Joseph and other members and accused them of being thieves.
Joseph says that despite repeated appeals from other policemen to let them go off, Sreejesh started beating up Joseph and allegedly took away their earnings of Rs 18,000.
I followed all the procedures, and I still don't know why I was beaten up. The policemen at Kudiyanmala has spoken to the local police and verified the details as well. How can a policeman beat up someone on a wheelchair for no fault? This is clearly injustice. I had to undergo a lot of mental and physical trauma. I hope I will get justice. - Biju Joseph.
Joseph was rushed to a local government hospital and was under treatment for over three days. Disability rights activists are determined to make sure the matter does not end there. Members of the AKWRF have filed a petition.
Joseph is now out of hospital and back home safe. Abdul Nasser, who is the AKWRF head in Kannur, is among those who has filed a case against the policeman accused of assaulting Joseph. He says that the incident was not reported accurately and shows Joseph in a poor light.
"Many media houses published Biju's story in negative light. We are a minority. Even society does not stand with us or for our rights. But we are sure that Biju will get justice. We have not made an attempt to directly interact with the accused cop. But we are going to fight against all odds for justice", says Naseer.
Given the overwhelming support from others in the disabled community, there seems to be some hope of Joseph getting redressal.