Vol. XLII No. 14 April 08, 2018

Right to Contest Elections

THE National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), in a statement issued on March 31, has said that it extends its wholehearted support and solidarity to the protest being conducted by disabled persons owing allegiance to various disability rights organisations in Tamil Nadu against the willful violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, whose core principle is equality and non-discrimination.

the last four days hundreds of disabled persons have been arrested in Chennai and kept under detention by the Tamil Nadu police for staging a protest against the rejection of the candidature of a visually impaired person, Saravanan, who had filed his nomination for the elections to the Dharmapuri District Public Library Employees Thrift Society. The rejection of was on the ground that Saravanan could not “read” or “write” the local language, which was one of the conditions laid down in the Tamil Nadu State Cooperatives Act, for contesting elections. The fact that Saravanan despite being print disabled (due to his visual impairment) could read and write the local language through the medium of Braille was sought to be overlooked.

This rejection has come despite the State Disability Commissioner’s intervention in Saravanan’s favour. But this also had come after a protest by various disability rights organisations. Earlier the Cooperatives Commissioner had ridiculed and humiliated the visually impaired candidates who had approached him asking him to issue directions to ensure that their candidatures were not rejected. A police complaint was filed against him under the RPD Act for insulting and humiliating disabled persons who had gone to meet him.

The NPRD affiliate, the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled & Their Caregivers (TARATDAC), the December 3 Movement and the National Federation of the Blind are in the forefront of the struggle. The NPRD joins these organisations in demanding that the provisions of the Tamil Nadu State Cooperatives Act be not interpreted in a manner so as to deny persons with disabilities the right to contest elections.