Mohd. Iqbal (55) hailed from Shey village in Ladakh. He was born in 1968 with a very severe physical disability. Despite that, he never missed any chance to play with fellow kids of the mohalla. He mingled with them so much that other kids took him as a ‘part’ of their group. Iqbal remembered how he used to be the umpire of the cricket matches the other kids played for example! His 95 percent disability didn’t hinder him one bit. Many children listened to him for advice as he was a bright child and could guide them in many matters.
As a boy he was active and would roll over with agility to move his body. However, as he grew up it became impossible for him to do so and always needed an assistant to carry him. His family and relatives were never reluctant to help him. Ka Iqbal continued to play the role of counsel and was admired for the valuable suggestions he made in both family and social affairs.
In 1999-2000 Jigmet Namgyal started Namgyal Institute of Persons with Disabilities dedicated to uplift the disabled people in Ladakh. He was among the first members of their Disability Wing and since then he never looked back. Kunzang Dolma from Nubra valley was his colleague and she always supported him in his journey there. That led to the creation of much needed awareness among the Ladakhi society regarding disability, and for the first time many acutely disabled young and old members began to move out of the closed doors of their houses. Families always kept them indoors as there was no help for such people, and also they feared social stigma. As Iqbal and Kunzang continued to work for this cause they felt the need to start a full-fledged organisation to expand the scope of possibilities beyond treatment and counselling to income generation and policy level advocacy. They started PAGIR (People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights) in 2007, which was registered in 2008.
Over the years, they were able to impart workshops for disabled people to be self-reliant, starting with making paper envelopes to replace the hazardous polythene bags in the market. It was an encouraging move and they soon stepped up their activities to paper mache products and even mats for household use. The range of their products has increased manifold today and they now have a full-fledged centre in Leh with a recycling unit in it. Iqbal fought for the rights of the disabled and achieved many milestones. LAHDC – Leh made the entrance to their building accessible. They helped persons with disabilities get the benefits of government schemes. A family in remote Hanle village of Changthang praises PAGIR for a tailoring training one of the members received at the behest of a disabled member of the family. Mohd. Iqbal is no more now but he has left behind a towering feat that matches the best of what Ladakh has achieved in recent times.
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