Disability rights activists slam Kushboo Sundar for insensitive comments
South Indian move star Kushboo who recently switched to politics made a shift from Congress to BJP last week. While talking about Congress leaders, Khusbhu said they are ‘mentally retarded’, something that has irked disability rights activists. Online complaints were lodged against her and the actress turned politician apologised for her comments. Kushboo’s comment merely shows the shallow attitude of society towards disabled people, says activists
South Indian movie star Kushboo Sundar switching from Congress to BJP has been making headlines for past couple of days. Needless to say, Kushboo who was a staunch Congress supporter has now been throwing abuses at the party. One of her comments has irked disability rights activists from across India. On arrival at the Chennai airport on Tuesday, Kushboo called the Congress ‘mentally retarded’, citing comments made by state Congress leaders. When it comes to sensitivity about people with disabilities, it is known that politicians and people in power are way backward. But Kushboo’s statement takes it to a whole new level of how a leader, chosen by the people, can stoop down due to lack of sensitization about disabilities.
Lack of awareness about disabilities
When it comes to being sensitized about disabilities, leaders, regardless of any political party, have a long way to go. Insensitive and derogatory comments being made at people with disabilities is nothing new. Disability rights groups and activists over the past many years have been trying to bring this to light, but in vain.
Last year, union minister and BJP leader Babul Supriyo while attending an event in West Bengal told to one amongst the audience, “What happened to you? Any problem? I can break one of your legs and can give you a crutch.” The minister then went on to order his security men to break the man’s leg and hand him a crutch if he moved again. He even asked the audience to applaud for the man.
“Is he talking about himself? Now he is both chowkidar and chor? Is it schizophrenia?”. This was a statement made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi almost a year back.
“Premature babies – the ones who are born in 6 months instead of 10 months – their hands and legs get pulled, and their mouth keeps dripping saliva”, said Radha Ravi, DMK leader, while comparing political rivals to people with disabilities
Disability activists speak up
TMN Deepak, founder of 3 December Movement that works for disabled people tweeted, “Disability sector strongly condemn Kushboo for denigrating psychosocial disabilities while criticizing congress party. Equating Congress as to that of “underdeveloped brain”is denigrating disability. Disability is part of biodiversity of nature, why do you compare?R v not equals?”.
“Is that supposed to be an insult? As a community, we welcome more political representation of persons with disabilities, as the neurotypical politician’s performance (especially in matters related to disability) is an epic fail”, says Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Disability Rights Alliance.
“Kushboo claims to be in politics from 2010 or before, but she doesn’t seem to have bothered to learn about the etiquettes of marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities or even respect them. This shows that she too is an ordinary politician trying to focus on her gains rather than respecting sentiments and dignity of persons with disabilities. No political party is sensitive towards rights of people with disabilities nor are their politicians. The easy method that they assume can be used to prove against the opposition is by calling them disabled. This cheap attitude keeps continuing”, says Smita Sadasivan, a disability rights advocate from Tamil Nadu.
Need for greater sensitization
Sharada Devi, a research scholar and disability rights advocate from Kerala says that usage of such terms are now becoming common. “What Kushboo shows is merely an ableist attitude of the society. It is seen in people from all walks of life. We often use disability related terms to attack the person whom we are not fond of. This merely shows the insensitive attitudes towards persons with disabilities. Here in particular towards those with intellectual disabilities”, she says.
Prajith Jaipal, founder of Divyaang Maithri that works for disabled people in Kerala say, “Politicians, in order to show their opposition in a low light, often uses disabled related terms which they believe are an abuse. Isn’t this common now? Personally, I do not feel Kushboo has said anything out of the league”.
Jomy Joseph, a disability rights advocate from Kerala says, “Politicians ofte engage in tug of war, but Kushboo should have carefully used terms against her opposition. I condemn her statements, but I also feel it is best to avoid these politicians, especially their ignorant statements. We can expect more gimmicks since elections are round the corner. Let them make noise”.
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