Published: 04th September 2019
This visually-impaired student is contesting the JNUSU polls in a bid to make the campus disabled-friendly
Shashibhushan Pandey, who hails from Gorakhpur is a I year MA Modern History student. He is a member of AISA and is determined to make a mark in the polls
The Hindi word Viklang literally translates to disabled and is not something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi approves of. Four years ago, he proposed to replace it with Divyang, which means divine body. But this is something that irks JNU student Shashibhushan Pandey. "A body part or an ability that you do not have is not divy (pure)," says this visually impaired 23-year-old. "The Prime Minister is trying to portray us as divine and not making us seem normal," he says.
Shashibhushan is fighting the upcoming JNUSU polls for the post of councillor, representing the student political organisation All India Students' Union (AISA). One of the two visually impaired contestants in this year's polls, he says, "Governments have always exploited us. But this government went an extra mile. The same government that calls us divyangs has not built a single school for the differently-abled," he says. So, what exactly do these polls mean for this I year MA Modern History student? "I want to break the prejudice and show everyone that I can live my life like anyone else. The disabled do face the same issues that any other JNU student does. But the effect is greater on people like me," he explains.
He goes on to tell us more about the problems that the differently-abled face in JNU. "The infrastructure here isn't disabled-friendly, while there have been clear notifications to make all buildings disabled-friendly," he says, adding, "There was a fund cut in the library which had affected the digital aid, on which our education is completely dependent. It is impossible for a blind student like me to study without laptops, but there aren't enough of them in the library. The ones there don't function well and mostly, we're forced to repair them with our own money. On top of that, our reader-allowance hasn't been hiked. Currently, readers are paid only Rs 3,000 in a month." Without readers, visually-impaired students are all at bay when it comes to studying and exams.
Like many students, Shashibhushan too is unhappy with the way the administration functions in JNU. "The culture of asking questions is getting destroyed here every day. The administration recently removed all the wall posters, which was an integral part of the culture. Almost every day, my friends would look at them and read the content out to me. Isn't that a childish way of silencing dissenting voices?" he asks. "They have enough money to build statues. But build a proper university first and then make statues. We want to get rid of this hinduvadi politics, which the ABAVP backs." he adds.
Until class VIII, Shashibhushan studied in a government school in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, where he hails from. He remembers how his fight for better facilities started right from then. "The school wasn't well maintained at all. We were given such bad food. The condition was so bad, that even animals would roam inside the classes. We always fought against it. Back then I didn't know what my politics was, but I fought for my rights," he says. From class IX, he studied in a school run by a non-profit, where he says that the condition was no different. "They'd get great donations, but it wasn't used to improve the facilities. I was on a hunger strike raising this demand, even the night before my board exam," he says.
But those years, however, taught him a lesson for life. He says, "To survive, we need to fight. To study, we need to fight." He doesn't know until when will he fight and protest. But he says, " I'll continue to fight."