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The Arrest Of Aseem Trivedi: Caricatures May Amuse Millions Of People, But Definitely Not Our Government

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By Harsh Choudhary:

Amidst the sound of slogans like Inquilab Zindabad and Bharat Mata ki Jai, Aseem Trivedi was released from the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, on the 12th of September, immediately after which, he went to the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Shrine to offer his prayers. In the press conference following the same, he addressed the disadvantages of the section 124A. He said that this was the worst thing at the time when India was under British and is still the same for the several social activists, journalists and people trying to criticize the government for its flaws. He affirmed that Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru too went to jail on sedition charges, it was not that they were not patriotic, but they were suppressed so that they could not raise their voices.

Aseem Trivedi, a person whose profession and passion is to make India a better place to live in, was charged with sedition. The cartoonist was sent to jail on Monday for two weeks by the Mumbai Court. He did not apply for bail until the sedition charge was removed. The Kanpur-based artist had previously been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during an anti-corruption rally organized by the crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai, last year and posting the same on his website. He was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a member of Republican Party of India, Mr Amit Katarnayea. However, Aseem Trivedi is proud of what he did and asserts that would do it repeatedly.

The arrest sparked condemnation by some political parties and activists, the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said that though the Constitution ensures freedom of expression it also lays down that every citizen must respect the national symbols. The Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari also said the same words and advocated “reasonable restrictions” to freedom of speech. Calling the arrest of Trivedi a “serious criminal offence“, the Chairman of Press Council of India, Markandey Katju said those politicians and police officials behind this should be arrested because arresting an innocent person is a crime.

The Bharatiya Janata Party criticized the UPA government saying that it had already been involved in corruption for instance, the coal allocation scam and now has taken to attacking democratic institutions and free speech. Prashant Bhushan, an eminent lawyer and an IAC member, said that the sedition charge must not be misused but is sadly constantly being misused by the government and that it should only be used only if someone incites violence. Arvind Kejriwal, an anti-graft activist and also an IAC member said that the way the cartoons were depicted were indeed very wrong but this does not make for a case of sedition.

In his home town Kanpur, supporters and family members of Trivedi protested outside the residence of the Coal Minister, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, who assured them that he would provide every possible help to the cartoonist. Aseem’s father Ashok claimed that his son was innocent and that it was an irony that he had been arrested on charges of sedition when his grandfather, Reva Shankar Trivedi had been a freedom fighter and had gone behind bars for India’s freedom struggle.

The charge thus erases the line between freedom of speech and sedition. The Government is itself responsible for what has happened, had not it done anything wrong, the sketch would have not been created in the first place. Instead of accusing people like Aseem, the government must try to improve itself. The topic of discussion in Parliament should not be on how they should stop those people who blame the government, but to improve the existing conditions. It is ironical to hear from the government that these people disrespect the national symbols and culture when the government itself repeatedly does what is against the nation’s development.

In this era of social connectivity, everyone is a writer and thus, fighting for the truth is not merely a job of the journalists. The government absolutely cannot afford to accuse every other person for the criticism. Mr Trivedi’s sketch may have been controversial and not technically correct, but it is evident that what he did was only to bring about a reform in the system. But then what about those government officials who bring shame to the country by leaving no opportunity to disrespect the existing democracy? I urge you to think about it.

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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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