The entire human civilization has been plagued by countless wars since time and immemorial; to an extent that ‘war’ and ‘peace’ are referred as two sides of the same coin. The core element of war is violence, which is present in every war however small or large it may be, only difference which remains is the degree of violence.
…to put every war wounded person under ‘war injured’ category is to be oblivious to the fact that injuries and disabilities are very separate entities altogether; they are not synonymous or interchangeable terms.
Depending on the degree of violence which constitutes a war, outcomes of the war differ. But this outcome also has one common element which is ‘injury’. No war in the history has been fought or can be fought without people getting injured. Not only the armed combatants get injured but people in the war zones also tend to get injured and all those who do get injured are put under the category of ‘war injured’.
War historians, security analysts, strategic experts and international relations observers have extensively used this term in ‘war literature’. Here is what the mistake is, not every war-wound just remains an injury, and many a times these injuries take the shape of ‘permanent disabilities’ which are irrevocable either due to extent of the injury or the lack of medical facilities available in the war-zones.
One needs to distinguish a ‘war injury’ from a ‘war disability’ because injury is something which can be cured with time, while ‘disability’ is a condition where a part of body loses its ability to function either temporarily or in many cases permanently. Therefore, to put every war wounded person under ‘war injured’ category is to be oblivious to the fact that injuries and disabilities are very separate entities altogether; they are not synonymous or interchangeable terms.
This is not just a linguistic mistake but there is hidden politics at play behind it. Firstly, giving recognition to a person with disability is something governments are extremely cautious of. This is because, when somebody is recognized as a differently-abled person, they have to be provided with all kinds of social security which includes employability, health care, equal opportunities, education(in case of children with disabilities) etc. All liberal, democratic governments do provide such ‘social security’ measures to persons with disabilities to make their life easier.
The acceptance of disabled population in the context of providing them social security is low in all societies which is evident with the fact that the official figures of disabled population in a country tends to be significantly lower than the actual figures.
These ‘social security’ measures have certain costs which all good governments bear, but after the war, since the number of disabilities shoots up suddenly, governments either lack the ‘intent’ or ‘capability’ to provide social security to a large disabled population. Secondly, governments don’t want to accept that a large number of disabled people live within their territory. This is because disability is seen as something weak, dependent and powerless by the mainstream able-bodied society. All nations without exception want to portray themselves as strong, powerful and independent.
This strength, power and independence comes directly from the population of the country, in other words, power of a country is derived from its population. Now, the more the number of disabled people in a country accepted officially as disabled, the more is the image of a state build as a weak and less powerful state by other states in the system. Since, all countries are ‘image-conscious’; the great powers more so, therefore they don’t tend to recognize war disabled as someone distinctly different from war injured.
The best example of that being erstwhile USSR, which called its entire disabled population as ‘invalids’ and a time came in 1980 during Moscow Olympics that Russian government declared that “there are no invalids in the country’, just to protect their image as a superpower, which in their minds could have gone down if they accepted that they too have a fair share of disabled population living in their territory.
The acceptance of disabled population in the context of providing them social security is low in all societies which is evident with the fact that the official figures of disabled population in a country tends to be significantly lower than the actual figures. Just take the example of India, which has one of the highest numbers of disabled population in the world. Officially, as per the 2011 population census, India has 26.8 million disabled people. Nearly all disability rights groups refute these figures by calling it as a gross misrepresentation of actual numbers which is around 80-90 million as per the data collected by the World Bank.
…as per the 2011 population census, India has 26.8 million disabled people.
War-Disabled, not being used a term in usual practice shows the ‘able-bodied’ psyche of the academicians and scholars in particular and the masses in general who don’t understand that the entire human civilization is in fact, ‘temporarily able-bodied’ which means the ability of their body parts to function is not permanent in nature as anyone can become disabled at any time in his/her life. War and disability are very much interlinked in many ways. The Disability Rights Movement itself owes its existence to the US war veterans of the Second World War who came out on the streets to protest for equal opportunities’ in jobs.
It is high time to come out of the ‘able-bodied psyche’ and make an effort to distinguish the war injured with those who are war disabled.