Deaf and mute protesters, demanding better job and education opportunities, were baton-charged by police this afternoon outside the Disability Commissioner's office in Pune. Thousands had gathered outside the social welfare commissioner's office, stressing "deaf community in Maharashtra has had enough."
Police began to disperse these people, hit them with batons when they tried to take out a rally, Pradip More, Secretary, State Level Association of the Deaf (SLAD), the NGO that organised the protest, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. He claimed some of the protesters were injured, while several others were detained.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has now sought a report in the matter from Pune Police Commissioner K Venkatesham.
In a Facebook post, the Metro South Asian Deaf Association, an organisation of deaf people from South Asian countries, sharing a video of the protest, said "deaf community in Maharashtra has had enough". "It is high time, the government provides accessibility and quality education to deaf people," the post read.
The protesters also sought setting up of government schools and colleges for the specially-abled.
Over 18 lakh deaf youth in the state have decided not to vote in the forthcoming general elections unless they get an assurance from the state authorities, Mr More was quoted as saying by news agency PTI
A first information report or FIR has been filed against over 2,000 protesters under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including rioting. Around eight cops were also injured in the protests, news agency ANI reported, quoting police.
The state government has been slammed by political leaders over the police action.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray, who visited the protesters later in the evening, said the government will have to "bear their curse". "It is very unfortunate that people, who could not speak, could not hear, have been lathi-charged. It must be probed as to who has given those orders. Chief Minister must take resignation of the person who ordered this action. They are demanding better education.... in sign language. Is it wrong?" he asked.
NCP's Supriya Sule, member of parliament from Baramati, asked for Mr Fadnavis's resignation. "Differently-abled youth indulging in a peaceful protest have been lathi-charged by the police. The Chief Minister has no moral right to continue. He should resign immediately," the NCP leader said.
(With inputs from agencies)