Javed Abidi, the Disability Rights Group convener, has chosen to represent the cause of disabled people by standing as an independent candidate for the 2004 Lok Sabha election constituency of New Delhi
Javed Abidi, the Disability Rights Group (DRG) Convener, has chosen to represent the cause of disabled people by standing as an independent candidate for the 2004 Lok Sabha election constituency of New Delhi. He started a hectic week of election campaigning with a visit to Nizamuddin Basti in the south of the city, where he had been invited by the local community to address the problems of the common man.
In his address to a public gathering at the Mazaar-e-Ghalib Abidi told onlookers: "I am concerned about the daily struggle of the common man. In a city of VIPs, I want to give voice to the daily struggle of the commoner, without any hidden agendas or coalition of convenience. I want to bring about a change on the real basis, and make a difference to the common man, be that through the provision of better roads or more acceptable living conditions."
In his hard-hitting speech, Abidi said people should see beyond the party politics of the BJP and the Congress, and their hidden agendas. He urged people to turn out to vote for a change and development, and not to be confused by the politics of religion.
He strongly criticised the Congress Party, saying that although the party claims to represent the secular front of Indian Politics, it has failed to field a Muslim or Christian candidate from any of the seven constituencies in Delhi.
He also found strong words of criticism for the Congress candidate in the New Delhi constituency, Ajay Maken. He had resorted, said Abidi, to ageist remarks in an attempt to hit out at his BJP rival and current member of the Lok Sabha, Jagmohan.
Abidi, however, was no more supportive of Jagmohan and the policies espoused by the BJP than of Maken and Congress. The tall claims of the former tourism minister came in for much criticism. "How can Jagmohan dream of turning New Delhi into Paris, when he has not been able to bring about the change required to develop the capital into a Bangkok-esque city, even after being elected from this constituency for three terms?" Abidi asked the assembled crowd.
Abidi took time out of his electioneering campaign to pay tribute to Hazrat Amir Khusrau. He offered a chadar at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Mehboob-e-elahi Dargah, on the occasion of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi.
Abidi says, that so far he has got a good response from the people and most of them have welcomed his decision to contest the elections. "The common man is disenchanted with the political leaders and wants a change."
Another day working the election trail that week saw Abidi taking his message of hope and equality to other areas that comprise some of the poorest parts of the city. He is attempting to fulfil his desire to be a true man of the people by making sure he represents those usually shunned by politicians as they lack financial and political power. With this in mind, he set out on Friday May 7 to his main port of call, the colony of disabled people at Viklang Basti, near Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The area is a home to thousands of people with disabilities. Speaking to the area's residents, it is clear that they felt let down by the politicians they supported in the past.
Abidi offers a spark of hope for such people. He promises to work towards greater accessibility for all.
"There are numerous distinctions in our society … As a disabled Indian myself, I understand how limiting a life of inequality can be. I have fought for an equal world for disabled people and will continue to do so for other marginalized groups," said Abidi.
The people at Viklang Basti have several concerns that most of us take for granted, namely the lack of nearby water supply, no electricity and inadequate schooling for their children. Despite these hardships, they feel a vote for Abidi could set in motion a change for the better.
One of the area's spokesmen is Abdul Malik, a migrant from Rajasthan who lost both his legs in a road accident. After spending all his savings on medical treatment, he moved to Delhi a few years ago in search of work and a fresh start. In an attempt to maintain his pride and support his family he became a juice vendor but was forced to close his business. He believes the election of Abidi would help him to assert his rights and get a better life.
"Abidi is a good candidate who thinks about everybody, not only the disabled but also the poor and dispossessed," said Malik
The disabled rights activist has also covered several areas of the New Delhi constituency, including Sarojini Nagar market, Anand Lok, Lodhi Colony, Khan Market and other localities of his constituency.