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Mamata To Include 6 More Languages In Official List: Fair?

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By Sunanda Ranjan:

Mamata Banerjee’s election in Bengal, after toppling over a stagnant Left government, was greeted with a lot of hope. Her promise of positive change fueled her election campaign. However, I am sure more people voted for her because of their frustration with the CPM than for any particular virtue of her own.

Nevertheless, the day she was elected the whole country experienced a wave of optimism and collectively hailed the verdict as a victory and vindication of our Democracy. I personally expected she would do a lot for the state to ensure her stay in power, swept with the initial high of her landmark victory.

My friend from West Bengal once told me how Mamata Banerjee, soon after she took on the reins of the Railway Ministry, changed the names of all the local metro stations (as the Calcutta Metro comes under the aegis of the Union Railway Ministry) to that of famous Bengali personalities, who had done the heartland proud. So now if you have to travel to Tollygunge, you need to buy a ticket to the Mahanayak Uttam Kumar Station instead! I found it hilarious!

Imagine wanting to travel to Najafgarh in Delhi, but having to buy a ticket to “Virender Sehwag” instead. How utterly confusing it could be to a tourist, or someone who has just started using public transport!

However, I spent the eve of the election verdict trying to inject some optimism into my friends from Bengal to take the outcome with a pinch of salt. Maybe, it wouldn’t be that bad an idea after all. Who knows, the political rivalry might actually spell a boon for the state. Obviously, being an outsider it was difficult for me to infer that their cynicism wasn’t completely unfounded.

Mamata Banerjee’s latest move to include six more languages to the official list which currently stands at two — Bengali and English — served to curb my enthusiasm for her to quite an extent.

West Bengal is one of the states that most revel in their heterogeneity. Even though Bengalis are known to be culturally sound to the extent of being riled for it at times, we never hear of any xenophobia perpetuating on its soil. People from all walks and classes settle there and become a part of the society without their “difference” ever being held against them.

In my visit to the state, I found the people very warm and accommodating. And honestly, I am not trying to glorify the citizens of the state — the scenario there is exactly how it should be in a land as culturally diverse as ours, and a society founded on the quintessential expression of universal brotherhood — “Vasudhaiv Kutumbukam”. But they are unique in that our country is not alien to cultural insecurity manifesting itself in a violent and un-inclusive kind of xenophobia, which leads to immigrants being looked upon with suspicion and aversion.

However, the point of having culturally and linguistically exclusive states is to help have a safe haven for a particular tradition, where it can prosper, and be fostered – not to alienate the non-natives, but to have a place where one can truly enjoy and witness the vibrant diversity of India, and get a chance to learn about different cultures.

In this kind of a situation, for Banerjee to add more official languages, clearly in a bid for mass appeasement, she is compromising on West Bengal’s exclusivity. I remember as my train entered Bengal from Orissa, I was able to tell the exact moment the border was crossed because of the changed script on the Railway signage, as the slightly Dravidian formation of Oriya gave way to the sleeker Bengali. It was a special moment for me, as someone who had always wanted to visit the place.

I wonder if all the boards start displaying the name of the place in eight different languages, or even two or three of them, and if every state follows suit, will we ever be able to experience such moments again?

The borders drawn between our states, though often the cause of much political dispute, ought to be a factor of pride instead. That within kilometers, we are able to witness such rich diversity, as we pass through the expanse of our large country is quite exclusively an Indian phenomenon.

It is not a bad thing to want to preserve one’s uniqueness, as long as it does not trespass the frontiers of peaceful co-existence.

I doubt if Mamata Banerjee’s move will please many — it is one thing to want to please your electorate; it’s absolutely another to make unnecessary compromises to appease people, in the absence of any real agenda for actual development.

I hope for dear life this is not the ‘poribortan’ Banerjee promised.

Img: http://pallabghosh.instablogs.com/entry/mamata-banerjee-create-history-swonr-in-as-chief-minister-of-west-bengal/

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  1. Baidya Niskalanka12

    Mamata Bannerjee is acting in a way she has been expected all along by us the residents of west Bengal- a personification of abject paranoia admixed with political greed.The writer of this mail has rightly said that we Bengalis have never allowed any xenophobia to grow on Bengal’s soil.Unfortunately that piece of magnanimity has been misinterpreted by many as meekness including local politicians like Mamata who think Bengali sentiment can be toyed with.We love our mother tongue maybe more than any other community in Indian subcontinent & Bengalis have donated blood for his mother tongue in Assam & erstwhile East Pakistan which is an inspiration for all self respecting communities.We will not tolerate the supremacy of Bengali language be challanged in Bengal by making it on par with any other migrant language just to bribe nonBengali residents of the state.Mamata has tried to play a similer communal partisan politics by bribing the imams with pension & has brought in casteist politics by invoking the local Matua community sentimentally.Such communal politics is not a part of Bengal & the obvious reaction will be yet another unprecedented happening–the rise of Bengali nationalism & a sensitive Bengali vote bank akin to 1971 in East Pakistan.The storm will obliterate Mamata & her neurotic politics for good.

  2. Baidya Niskalanka12

    Mamata Bannerjee is acting in a way she has been expected all along by us the residents of west Bengal- a
    personification of abject paranoia admixed with political greed.The
    writer of this mail has rightly said that we Bengalis have never allowed
    any xenophobia to grow on Bengal’s soil.Unfortunately that piece of
    magnanimity has been misinterpreted by many as meekness including local
    politicians like Mamata who think Bengali sentiment can be toyed with.We
    love our mother tongue maybe more than any other community in Indian
    subcontinent & Bengalis have donated blood for his mother tongue in
    Assam & erstwhile East Pakistan which is an inspiration for all self
    respecting communities.We will not tolerate the supremacy of Bengali
    language be challanged in Bengal by making it on par with any other
    migrant language just to bribe nonBengali residents of the state.Mamata
    has tried to play a similer communal partisan politics by bribing the
    imams with pension & has brought in casteist politics by invoking
    the local Matua community sentimentally.Such communal politics is not a part of Bengal & the obvious reaction will be yet another unprecedented happening–the rise of Bengali nationalism & a sensitive Bengali vote bank akin to 1971 in East Pakistan.The storm will obliterate Mamata & her neurotic politics for good.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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