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On An Empty Stomach: Hunger Strikes in India (A satire)

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By Neelima Ravindran:

Kirti Azad, former cricketer and BJP MP, sat on a hunger strike to protest against the functioning of the cash rich IPL, which has been of late hit by a series of controversies. He has demanded improved transparency and accountability in the management of the premier cricket tournament, bemoaning that there is too much politics in sports. Mr. Azad’s ‘T20 fast’ inspired from the nation wide acceptance of Anna Hazare‘s emulation of this Gandhian weapon has in turn influenced and inspired people from various walks of life to do the same for deserving matters that require immediate attention of the nation, the government and its civil society. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has appreciated this effort on the part of the people of the country to do their bit in the austerity drive and to help in boosting the economy. It was overheard that BJP President Nitin Gadkari is furious with his party cadets that this idea was not given to him earlier and hence had to undergo an expensive surgery for his weight loss.

Karan Johar has requested permission from officials for a hunger strike at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium protesting against Ram Gopal Varma making a movie on the banning of actor and owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, from the stadium for 5 years. RGV sees a nexus between Mumbai mafia and the MCA officials and plans to throw light on the subject in his next attempt, tentatively titled “SRK ka hate story”. Mr. Johar, one of Hindi cinema’s most popular and successful directors feels that since King Khan is his bff, he has to automatically get the rights of the story. He plans to bring to screen the poignant turmoil of a man, mercilessly wronged as he sheds blood to protect his kith and kin. He has named this emotional saga “Kabhi Wankhede ke andhar, kabhi bhahar”.

Images of a huge crowd of youngsters demonstrating and shouting slogans were seen at Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi. As the nation watched with curiosity at the ever growing gathering of men and women, it was confirmed that they were agitating against former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and former Andhra Pradesh governor ND Tiwari’s decision to not give blood samples for testing in their paternity suit cases. There are reports of similar protests in other cities and even in some of the rural areas. Huge batallions of police forces are already at the maidan and the goverment is contemplating on deploying the army to bring the situation under control.

Junior Mallya has been advised by psychiatrists treating him for anger management, to go on a hunger strike in an attempt to make the young scion adopt an alternate and agreeable method of venting his fury. His father has asked a popular Bollywood actress to keep him company, apparently to make sure that he does not login to his twitter account for a few days till the controversies surrounding the arrest of a RCB player for molestation dies down. The actress, it seems have eagerly accepted the invitation as she sees this opportunity to become size minus one.

Whispers among the Congress workers in Delhi are that, Prince Gandhi is determined to go on a hunger strike rebelling the flurry of hunger strikes across the country. He strongly believes that the patent of fasting for a higher cause remains with the heir of the Congress party and that he and he alone have the right to this non violent method of Gandhigiri. The word is that he has requested the help of Abhishek Manu Singhvi and his colleague to study the legal aspect of the matter and take appropriate action in the court. A reliable source from 10 Janpath has hinted that the young Gandhi has also appointed a spy in Singhvi residence to make sure that he is ‘working’ on the case.

The magnanimity of Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev deserves special mention; he has pledged a CD of his lecture “plan your escape routes before a dharna” to all those who are following this hugely popular and effective method of striking a chord with the public. Free salwars and kurtas have been included along with the CD. West Bengal CM, Mamta Banerjee has also vowed that those who have white and blue tents at their fasting venues will be appropriately rewarded.

There are some trivial reports of 37% percentage of India’s population below the poverty line fasting unto death outside Montek Singh Ahuwalia’s residence, to object the government’s drawing BPL cap status at Rs 32 per person per day. Of course, they call it their “every day life”.

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  1. Girija Semuwal

    Wonderfully written and satirical! It reminds me of the column “Life of a common man”. Indeed, fasting seems to have become a trend among the famous, whilst it continues to be the everyday reality for the poor. Leaders in India’s public life seem to associate fasting with a privileged status while for the poor getting two square meals a day remains a privilege.

    1. Neelima R

      Thank you!

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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.

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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)’.

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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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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.

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