Indra Maya: Disabled But Not Broken!
She is immovable without wheelchair but she has the power to move things for the welfare of the people. When she was struggling to reach her school, travelling six kilometers one way everyday, 33 year old Indra Maya never thought that she would become a Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M) CA member contributing to the historic task of writing the constitution. Today she is not only contributing to writing the constitution but is also pursuing her Master’s Degree. She became disabled due to polio, which many villagers in Gorkha perceived was the result of a “sin” committed by her parents in their past life. She says she used to feel embarrassed when people watched her walk, but would not let people see her disability as an inability.
As time passed by, she continued her studies and eventually became a teacher in a local school which also served as a good platform for starting her political career. She is also an active member of the All Nepal Revolutionary Disabled Persons’ Organization affiliated to the UCPN-M. She was nominated as the CA member by the Government of Nepal. While teaching in the school, she used to dream of starting an organization of disabled persons so that they could network and collectively raise their voices. That said she feels that non-government organizations (NGOs) alone will not be enough to raise the voices of disabled persons because many of their issues need to be addressed by the government. Gurung is of the view that for any society to develop fully, people with disabilities cannot be left out. She says more consideration, for example, needs to be put into designing facilities like buildings and elevators.
Question: How did you feel to know that you were nominated by the Government Nepal as a CA member?
Answer: Though I was happy to be nominated, I also felt my responsibility towards the 7% to 10% of people who are disabled in this country, quite apart from being a member of the UCPN-M.
Question: How do you feel now?
Answer: Going through the thematic committee reports, I am happy that many of our issues have been addressed, despite there are few disabled people (only two) among the 601 members in the CA.
Question: Please tell some of the obstacles you face in the CA as a disabled person?
Answer: The CA building itself is not disabled friendly. I always use the back door to enter the CA in the absence of proper ramp. Sometimes it makes us feel that our struggle for rights begins with climbing the steps in front of the CA building. The CA Secretariat is also not disabled friendly although some buildings inside Singhadurbar do have ramps now. But people have different forms of disabilities. For example, Braille is needed for the visually impaired and sign language for the hearing impaired. I feel a separate bill is required to overcome such obstacles. I made all efforts to include disabled people’s rights in the thematic committee reports. Though we are only two in the CA, other CA members have also been paying due attention to disabled persons’ rights. Despite the fact that we had submitted memorandum for inclusion of disabled persons in the CA, only two parties included disabled persons. If other major parties would have also nominated disabled persons; our voices would have been heard effectively. Nonetheless, the participatory constitution building process has allowed us to raise our voices at different occasions both within and outside the CA. Another obstacle is the psychological. Sometimes our colleagues use words that are not only disabled friendly but are also discriminatory and humiliating. This needs to be corrected. I will be satisfied with the new constitution if it becomes disabled friendly from all perspectives
Question: Please tell us about your married life?
Answer: My husband works abroad. When he saw me teaching in the villages he was attracted to me and proposed marriage. But, my family was against it because they were worried he might not be loyal to me as I am a disabled person. I revolted against my family and got married with him. Since there was no objection from his family we have lived happily after marriage.
Question: Lastly, what do you think about current delay in constitution writing process?
Answer: Though the time is running out for the timely promulgation of the new constitution, I strongly believe that consensus among all parties is possible which will give us a new constitution, which has been aspiration of many Nepali people over the years.