PATNA, 10 Sep 2009: Disabled campaigners in eastern India on Tuesday defended parking their wheelchairs on a busy rail track as trains sped towards them. The 12 demonstrators wheeled themselves onto the line in the state of Bihar in a mark of protest against armed robbers who had mugged a group of disabled sportsmen travelling on the route at the weekend. One man was shot and seriously injured in the attack. The protesters – most of them young students – blocked the line in the state capital Patna for nearly an hour on Monday, to the fury of police who pulled them to safety just in time.
“It was very dangerous for them but we managed to save them from an approaching train,” Ajay Kumar Singh, a railway police officer, told AFP. Sugandh Narayan Prasad, leader of the protesters, rejected the criticism and said their actions were necessary. “We were fully aware of the risks involved, but we have no other way to draw attention to the need to protect physically challenged people travelling on trains,” he said. “We never fear death to raise our voice for rights.” Rakesh Kumar, a 12-year-old boy in a wheelchair who took part in the protest, said he wanted “to show sympathy for the physically challenged people who were victims of the robbery”.