ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Disability Rights Movements in India: Politics and Practice

This paper charts the history of the disability rights movements in India by referring to the social and political contexts within which they emerged, the ideological influences, structures, issues, possibilities and challenges. Several factors were involved in the rise of disability movements in the late 1980s and 1990s. Among these was a much more accountable state policy, the strong presence of women's movements, and the interest and push of international agencies, the presence of which created a more conducive space for the political mobilisation of marginalised groups such as the disabled. The passing of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 owes much more to international pressure than to lobbying and protests by disability rights groups. The disability rights movement in India is still trying to register its presence in the public sphere. It has, however, undoubtedly touched the lives of masses of disabled persons and pushed for a more disabled-friendly environment in the country.

february 5, 2011 vol xlvi no 6 I n charting the history of disability rights movements (DRM) one needs to examine the rise of other similar movements in postcolonial India, especially the women’s movements, environmental movements and more recently dalit movements. The social and political context which provided the background and the necessary impetus to these movements displays an interesting trajectory, points of conjunction and disjunction across the world. The political and ideological inuences which grew and crystallised in the post-second world war western world resulted in the emergence of the civil rights movement, anti-racist protests and women’s movements. These not only reshaped the public sphere but also propelled shifts in theory construction and reformulating methodologies for comprehending the changing dynamics of social reality. In the 1960s and 1970s, issues of power hierarchies cutting across race and gender acquired an extremely important position reframing the trajectories of social movements across the world. Along with the focus on activated political spheres through sweeping anti-establishment protests across countries, the role of the United Nations, nation states and international funding organisations becomes crucial in contextualising the burgeoning growth of networks of people raising issues of race, gender and disability in cross-cultural contexts. Disaffection with development agenda and lowered conviction in science, failed projects of modernity, and widespread and growing inequalities appeared central to the way people articulated their grievances and expressed connections between theory and practice. In this paper I propose to chart the chequered history of the disability rights movements in India by referring to the social and political contexts, within which they emerged, the ideological inuences, structures, issues, possibilities and challenges.1

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