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Is ‘Divide and Rule’ The Politicians’ Mantra?

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By Anush Garg:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens.” These are the opening lines of our constitution which we adopted on 26th January 1950.

owaisi

Keeping these constitutional words in mind, I think that the politicians of India don’t really live in a democratic republic. They might have been chosen by the people but they think that they are not answerable to the same people. No public appearances, even our Prime Minister does not care to speak to the people on subjects of national concern.

According to the ethics of democracy in India, the government has a duty to support various rights of the people. But the fact is much of the population does not enjoy the rights because of the fact that literacy and employment are both hard to find in backward areas and remote villages and therefore people continue to live in the dark. The only right which has been offered is the ‘Right to Vote’. Once elected, the MLA’s and MP’s make the most of the power and prestige, which makes them addicted to get re-elected. This whole cycle makes the Indian politicians hungry for power and this thirst causes them to divide the commoners on the basis of caste, creed and religion.

Many politicians make speeches on subjects of hate and religion and hide themselves behind the curtain of Freedom of Speech and Expression as provided by our constitution. They themselves forget that the constitution which has given us the right to express ourselves has also provided some restrictions. Hate speeches in a public gathering is an offence under Section 153 (a) of IPC*. I believe that a hate speech by the politician, where he divides the listeners on the basis of religion or their place of birth, is not welcome.

*According to the Indian Penal Code 153 (a): “Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintain harmony.”

A fresh case which is in the media is that of Akbaruddin Owaisi and honestly, I had never heard of him till his recent hate speech. Also, he has already been booked for six different cases in the past. He is the floor member of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and was elected as an MLA in 1999. During his political career, Owaisi made a number of controversial speeches. In some he used Urdu words such as katil (murderer), beimaan (dishonest), darrinda (monster), and dhokebaaz (cheat) for the former Prime Minister, P V Narsimha Rao. In December 2012, Owaisi made fun of Hindu festivals, and said “We (Muslims) have only two festivals; they (Hindu) have so many — one every 10 days.”

Five years ago, he and his supporters had physically attacked the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen who is noted for her logical islamist comments and articles. She was billed as anti-islamist by Owaisi and his followers and the legal case is still pending in the court.

But, the most recent controversial speech was made by him on the 24th of December, 2012 when he was addressing 25,000 Muslims in the town of Nirmal in Andhra Pradesh. In the two-hour-long speech, he tried to brainwash the Muslim listeners to hate the Hindu community. Immense public outcry and demands have forced the authorities to book him under Sections 143 and 156 of CrPc where he is not allowed any further public appearance.

Immediately after his hate speech, he fled to London for ‘medical treatment’, as told by his brother. However, he was arrested on the 8th of January, 2013 and is expected to be produced before a court in Nirmal owing to his hate speeches.

In his latest speech on the 24th of December he even supported Kasab and other terrorists who attacked the Taj Hotel in Mumbai; he also supported Tiger Memon and the Mumbai Blasts during his speech. He told the listeners that it was revenge which Tiger Memon accomplished on behalf of the Muslims.

Approximately 100 years ago, when the British ruled India, they practiced the concept of ‘divide and rule’. In my belief, the politicians are playing the same game even today. They are dividing people on the basis of religion and caste and ruling them. The MPs and MLAs often come up with novel ideas of reservation quotas and win elections to gain power. But in the long run, the reservation/quota system is not for the benefit of the country or its people especially while the nation is still developing. The politicians are generating hate amongst us, and directly opposing secularism.

A few years ago, Raj Thackeray, in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan stated: “Everyday 48 trains come to Maharastra from UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Who are these people, where do they go?”

This forces me to raise this particular question: Is every citizen not allowed to travel to any part of the country or state? Such hate speeches show the shallow and irresponsible mindset that our politicians have. The same politicians who should be responsible for maintaining peace amongst their own constituents.

I have something to say to our leaders: If a young girl from Mumbai posts something on Facebook about the death of politician Bal Thackeray, the police arrests her in no time to please those in power and for showing the superiority of their own beliefs over the law of the land. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has stated “Anyone who hurts sentiments will be dealt with as per law”. I believe that this statement is only politically and legally correct to avoid dealing with the matter immediately and to save his position. This is typical when a politician is involved and it takes decades when it comes to the legal procedure.

Making hate speeches while earning money and fame at the same time, dividing us on religion and language will not work anymore. We Indians are now connected; we have come together and will not give in to their ways. We must not forget that ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’

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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 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 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.”

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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