Championing the cause of the differently abled
By Juliana Sridhar


Javed Ahmad Tak, a resident of Kashmir’s Anantnag district made headlines recently when he received the prestigious Padma Shri Award from the President of India, seated on a wheelchair. Born to Habibullah Tak and Ateeqa, Javed is the youngest in his family which comprises of an elder brother and 2 elder sisters. Being the youngest, he received a lot of affection and attention from all his family members.

Javed schooled in the prestigious Cambridge Public School in Anantnag till Class 8. He then moved on to Islamic Hanfiya Institute where he completed his schooling. According to Javed, both schools where he studied were an epitome of peace and harmony even though the teachers and students were from diverse religious backgrounds.

He acquired his degree from Government Degree College, Khanabai, Anantnag and then tragedy struck. He was hit by a bullet on his spine during the Kashmir conflict in 1997 which left him disabled. Javed was admitted in various hospitals for taking treatment and was bedridden till the year 2004.

It was during this period that his tryst with destiny started. He began taking tuition for children who could not afford to go to school. He also started a book bank that benefitted thousands of students. Besides this, he also organized the collection and distribution of used school uniforms, shoes and school bags to the economically backward students.

After this break, he resumed his education in 2005 and acquired a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir. He followed it up with a B Ed and M Ed degree in Special Education. He also did certificate courses in Computer Science and Human Rights.

Javed later turned his focus to children with disabilities as he found them going through many hardships. With the help of volunteers, he started a Humanity Welfare Organization Helpline NGO in 2003. He also started a Helpline Institute for Children with Disabilities and provided them with education till class 8. This Institute was registered under the name Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education in 2008.  A building was constructed and a couple of buses were hired.

His mission to provide education to persons with disabilities at the national and state level attracted the attention of media and stakeholders and he received many awards. Due to the success of this mission, Javed was selected for the prestigious Padma Shri Award which is the fourth highest civilian award in the country.

Javed lives in a joint family with his parents and his elder brother and his family. He gets full support from all his family members. His disability did not cow him down. It instead catapulted him to work tirelessly for people with disabilities.

His goal in life is to work towards education and employment of persons with disabilities and help them to live life with dignity. He is working towards achieving a 100 percent literacy rate of such people in his state. He hopes that they are able to get employment after they complete their education.  He feels that the present social security pension of Rs 1000 awarded to persons with disabilities is too meager to make ends meet.

Javed has been able to run the Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education with the help of public donations. He says that for the past 3 years, Aziz Premji Foundation, Bangalore has been providing grants for the education of the students. As the Institute building construction has to be completed, Javed is requesting people to contribute for this good cause.

As the saying goes “ A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others.’’ Javed has been doing all this and more and has proved that his disability is not an obstacle to success.

Juliana Sridhar is a lawyer and columnist



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