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First PM Modi, now Mamata Banerjee shocks & offends with comments about mental disability

Her anger towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for asking the Election Commission of India (ECI) to declare West Bengal a "super sensitive state" may be justified but Mamata Banerjee's choice of words to articulate that is totally out of line.

This week, the West Bengal Chief Minister joined the laundry list of national leaders who are in the dock for referring to disability in negative terms. Addressing party workers she described the BJP leadership's behaviour as akin to " a psychiatric patient".

Banerjee's exact words were - "I am astonished to hear that they termed Bengal as a super sensitive state' and asked for a media observer. They are behaving like a psychiatric patient. They don't know what they are doing".

This comes less than two weeks after the nationwide outrage over Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocking comments about dyslexia. Banerjee's comments have been greeted with a similar sense of outrage and disappointment.

Speaking to NewzHook,Kolkata-based disability rights activist Shampa Sengupta said,

The first page of today's Bangla newspaper pained me a lot. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's comment on BJP was printed there. Why did she use the words "Manosik Rogi" to combat political opponent? As a person with mental illness, as a primary caregiver, I am hurt. As a disability activist, I am angry that different conditions under mental health is very often used by politicians in extremely derogatory manner. If people who are in high position do not restrain themselves, how can we expect society to respect diversity in human beings. - Shampa Sengupta, Disability rights activist

The National Platform for Rights of Disabled (NPRD) has renewed its demand that the ECI take suo moto cognizance of such offensive statements.

Such comments against people with disabilities constitutes an offence under Section 92(a) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and are "punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine".

In a statement, the NPRD said, "While Mamata Banerjee she has every right to respond to the challenges posed by her political rivals, the insensitive and callous manner in which she has sought to do so is highly condemnable. It is all the more reprehensible as it comes from a person occupying the office of the Chief Minister. Ms. Banerjee just needs to visit the Pavlov Hospital in Kolkata, not far from her Nabanna office or any such family in the city to understand the trauma and suffering that people with mental illness and their families undergo".

The NPRD has also written to the ECI asking for action to be taken against Banerjee as her comments violate the Model of Conduct that has come into force.

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