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A protester takes off his prosthetic leg as he gets ready to sleep.

(Photo: Debayan Dutta/ The Quint)

In Pics: Divyangs Brave Cold Nights to Protest Railways’ Injustice

On the eve of Intl Day of Persons with Disabilities, protesters have spent a week trying to get government attention

Updated04 Dec 2019, 08:45 AM IST
4 min read

As the Divyang protest entered its seventh day, the disabled protestors – who have been protesting against the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) and camping at the national capital’s Mandi House intersection – geared up for International Day of People with Disabilities by planning to carry out candlelight protests wearing black bandanas around their mouths on 3 December.

They say that the seats in the RRB revised group D list have not been allotted as per reservation norms and that the number of seats reserved for differently-abled citizens was altered after the result was revised – they want to know why they’ve been abruptly denied jobs.

And so they protest.

Here are a few glimpses of the protesters as the night wore on:

In the wee hours, as the temperature fell to almost 10 degrees, the protesters battled sleep and cold as they shouted slogans and sang songs.

Some kept up the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude throughout the night. With frequent sloganeering and the occasional ‘Jaagte raho’, they kept their spirits high.

The shortage of food and water made many weak. To conserve energy, most of the protestors slept by 1 am so that they could wake up and start protesting again the next day.

In freezing temperatures, all the protesters had was one quilt and their bags as a pillow to sleep on. Sometimes, two or three would share a quilt.

The severe cold and lack of beds made it difficult for many to sleep as the protesters lay on newspapers that have been their bedding for the past week. By 4 am, dew had drenched their clothes, their papers, and their blankets.

Kuril Kumar, a protester, said, “We are sleeping by wrapping ourselves in plastic, so imagine the pain we are going through. When we wake up, it feels like someone has poured 4-5 buckets of water on us. Our bodies are drenched.”

While some managed to procure plastic to cover their quilts, the others had to find shelter from the precipitation under trees, makeshift shelters, bus stops or in public toilets.

MS Rathore, a candidate from Rajasthan, said that the cold and hard ground don’t allow him to actually sleep, so he just “lies down to bide time”.

He says he hasn’t showered for six days and has had to stand in a long queue just to take a leak.

“We sleep in the morning when the sun is shining. It is difficult at night. Plus we need to keep a watch on our brothers too.”
Naresh Bhatia, Rajasthan  

The candidates took turns to keep a watch on their colleagues. Two to three of them would stay awake at a time to make sure nothing untoward happened.

While many had the fortune of falling asleep, some just couldn’t. So they engaged themselves in conversations, slogans and tossing and turning in the little space that they had.

Many of them haven’t had a proper meal and have resorted to begging to fill their stomachs. Deepak Kumar Yadav, a candidate from Bihar, says that they are at God’s mercy when it comes to food. It is with the help of some good samaritans who have donated biscuits that they have stayed on.

“When we sit down with bowls (to beg), we feel humiliated. I am a graduate who was preparing for UPSC.”
MS Rathore, Rajasthan

Some of the protesters who have been on a hunger strike since day one of the protest say that the nearby hospitals would shoo them away if they refused to eat when they went there to get treated.

“Many people protest, but not these kind of people and in this manner. And that too in this weather, in the open air.”
Deepak Kumar Yadav, Bihar

Despite the hardships, the protesters are hopeful that they will go home with a job in hand. Bhatia says, “This Mandi House will become a historic ground. We will kiss the ground when we leave.”

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Published: 03 Dec 2019, 02:17 PM IST

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