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Tackling ultra-Reds: What went wrong and what next? [Part 3 of 5]

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Abhirup Bhunia: (reports from West Bengal)

There is no indecisiveness regarding prevention of violence brought about by Maoists. But the manner in which the purpose will be accomplished is indubitably a sticking point. The entire Naxal movement and the series of blasts, firing and violence unleashed by them have accounted for tens and thousands of lives, although figures cannot be distinctly produced. The spiral of violence hasn’t doused for long. The government has been in the dock for equally long period of times failing to come to a conclusion. The Prime Minister had once expressed the need to have a nuanced approach to tackle the Maoists and went on to describe them as the biggest internal security threat.

After launching the operation green hunt that was meant to wipe out the Naxals by use of force, things went downhill. The Naxals countered green hunt by proclaiming an offensive termed, ‘peace hunt’, which made it amply clear that an open challenge was thrown to the government. What the latter failed to understand, intellectuals said, was that no amount of force can erase an imbibed notion in hearts and souls of thousands of people who are the original inhabitants of India — the tribals. A superficial approach commenced. Hundreds of jawans were killed, several civilians were slain, and the vicious circle was born. Differences started to grow within the UPA itself. Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh were at loggerheads, things turned into petty politics once again. The State v/s Centre argument floated up true to Indian history of politics. Among the three lists in the Indian constitution — the state list, concurrent list and the center list — law and order falls under the state list. But the old debate as to whether it was entirely a law and order situation or lack of development, surfaced. The strategies of the government were amounting to hem and haw and finally, when they were executed, blemishes in the strategies and what went wrong formed the bigger list. So, what went wrong? Many say the state sponsored violence was wrong in first place. BJP leader Narendra Modi, going against party lines said force cannot be the solution. Raman Singh, the Chattisgarh CM, called the Maoists terrorists. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM has gone soft on them earlier. WB CM, Budhadeb Bhatacharjee said he does not need the Army to fight the Maoists. The use of Army, one must remember, is being suggested by those who acknowledge the need of force to wipe Naxals out but are against use of Air power. However, once it was identified as a simple security problem to be treated like a law-of-the-land situation, the forces had to be sufficiently trained to emerge victorious. When the Thailand troops cracked down on the Red Shirts, they made sure the latter gave in. But nothing of that sort happened in India.

When the Eastern Frontier Rifles were brought in action, 24 of the EFR jawans were butchered by the amateurish gunmen from the Naxal group. When the Center Reserve Paramilitary Forces were deployed, 74 of them were massacred and critics and operation experts said the CRPF isn’t capable of fighting in such topography and conditions. Hence, the government drew too much of a flak when the operation green hunt fell flat on them. Too many goof-ups were reported. In the EFR camp in Silda, severe technical errors were identified; inhuman conditions prevailed in the camp; on several occasions Maoist leaders were said to have misled and tricked the authorities. A histrionic exchange of fax numbers and phone numbers by the HM and Kishenji led to all but droll zilch. The Naxals, enraged by the government’s strategies, carried out blasts after blasts. The government was left red faced with their own member squabbling with each other. The opposition hurled accusations. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, in midst of all this, articulated the need to have fast progress and development, thereby opening up the old debate as to how the menace is to be perceived.

All things considered, the government has increasingly been unable to decimate the Maoists, nor has it been able to address the root cause — lack of development, as they say. In addition, internal arguments and sheer vacillation made it all the more difficult with the Naxals capitalizing on every other slipup. Now use of air force is being mulled over by Chidambaram which itself has its own set of pros and cons and has heralded a new debate in which all and sundry wants to participate including the politicians within and outside Congress, the Indian Air Force executives, the public commentators and not to mention, the know-it-all public of the grand Indian democracy.

To read how the IAF debate unfolds and how feasible is the use of air power to annihilate the Naxals, watch this space for the next article in this ongoing series on Naxalism.

Follow the complete series here.

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  1. Suraj

    What went wrong… Everything that the govt did went wrong

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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