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An open letter to Goa Governor, Mridula Sinha - My Take by Monika Kshatriya

October 16, 2018

My Take this week is by Monika Kshatriya, a disability rights activist and freelance journalist based in Goa. Monika has over 17 years' experience in TV news and has an abiding interest in issues concerning persons with disabilities, environment and gender non-conformists and continues reporting on these issues.

Dear Ms. Governor,

On Saturday, at a celebratory event in Porvorim, you managed to turn a victorious mood to a bitter and anguished one. With just one line, you displayed not just your utter lack of understanding of diversity, but you also managed to trample upon the very Constitution that you swore to uphold while taking an oath to office.

You were invited as the chief guest at the prize distribution ceremony of the T20 Series between India, Sri Lanka and England. This sporting event was organised by the Goa Cricket Association and the Cricket Association for the Blind in India.

The mood was jubilant because the hosts, Team India, managed to claim the cup. This was a moment to celebrate the special abilities of the players, the grit and determination of a team that fought against all kinds of physical and mental barriers to reach this far. What everyone expected or hoped to hear from you were words of praise for these path breakers, who are an inspiration to many sports persons in this cricket obsessed nation of ours.

Instead, you chose to heap a huge dollop of humiliation served with a garnish of insult and served with deep insensitivity. You said "Blind people are a mistake committed by God and it is a miracle such people can play cricket".

Ms Governor, today you hold the exalted office of the governor. You are sworn to uphold the law. We address you as "Her Excellency", not because you were born in a certain family, religion or caste, but because you are appointed by the President himself to the high office to ensure that the Constitution is adhered to.

Let me enlighten you about what the Constitution says in this regard.

Under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 the government is required to inter alia, ensure/protect a disabled person's right to equality, dignity and respect for his/her integrity equally with others; right to personal liberty, right not to be discriminated against; right to live in a community, and right to equal protection. Clearly in complete disregard of this Act, you have attempted to strip persons with disabilities of the dignity they deserve.

Cricket for the Blind is a specialised sport. It requires a special skill to play it and clearly not everyone can. I assure you that even a blind-folded Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli will not be able to clear the qualification round for the district team. Clearly, you failed to see the abilities of these sports persons. All you could focus on was their disability.

Also, it didn't take a "miracle" for these sportsmen to perform, but sheer sweat and hard work in perfecting their game. A person with visual impairment has to cross a million hurdles to get to a sports field. After years of struggle one reaches the international level and plays a game. And then to be told that you are god's mistake - is demeaning to say the least.

Ms. Governor , may I also jog your memory. This is not the first time a right wing politician has repeated this idea. Can you please enlighten me about which text of the Sanatan dharma propounds this idea of God's mistake? So you might argue on the "Karma" theory, that persons with Disability, whom the Prime Minster has lovingly termed "Diyang" (one with divine limbs), are a result of mistakes made in their last birth. Well, then you must admit that one the most revered poets of the Bhakti movement, Surdas, was a huge mistake.

Finally, please don't put this down to a mistake of the Almighty, but to your inability to understand diversity and the law. Your inability to understand that each of us, irrespective of our physical features, is a perfect creation.

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