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Chup Karo, Khush Raho: Ordinary Mortals, Beware!

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By Rhea Kumar:

I glare at you from the front page of the newspaper. I am the guiding principle that most of the world lives by today, be it the political bigwigs or the common man on the street. Art, music, literature and social media; nothing can escape my pervasive grip. Though you cannot see me, I am omnipresent and omnipotent. I am truly the king of all kings.

I am Censorship. Also called Intolerance. Fundamentalism. Tyranny of Thought. Many names for a simple idea!


Let me tell you a bit about myself. I hold my temper on a very short fuse, and if you mess with me, you are liable to face serious consequences. Don’t believe me? Do you remember how Salman Rushdie provoked me when he decided to write ‘The Satanic Verses’ in the 1980s? Now, the once popular and respected Salman Rushdie cannot even enter his motherland for a Literature Festival. And do not forget the bomb blasts that happened in bookstores across the Middle East following his book launch. Or jog your memory and think back to November 2012 when two young girls in Palghar were arrested after they posted their views on the grand funeral processions for Bal Thackeray in Maharashtra. They felt brave and courageous when they wrote on Facebook but the bravado melted away quickly when I reared my lovely head. Ultimately, they bowed down to me by making a public apology.

By challenging me, people have not only lost face in public but also all that they hold near and dear to them. One of my greatest adversaries, M.F. Hussain, could not fulfill his dying wish of returning to India, his homeland. He was forced to live as a refugee in foreign lands for years and years even as his paintings were vandalized at exhibitions by fundamentalists who believed these were offensive to Hindu goddesses. Yes, some Hindu temples and the world famous sculptures at Khajuraho are replete with nude figurines, but when a Muslim artist’s work is in question, the issue acquires a completely different hue! Why worry about being consistent and logical? Besides, this particular issue was just too hard to resist. I got more than a hotshot politician to do my bidding; I got almost the entire conservative Hindu community to rally behind me.

You may still think you can battle me by citing Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees every citizen of the country Freedom of Speech and Expression. You poor, innocent, thing! Do you really think mere good intentions and words on paper can defeat a pervasive force like me? That a few misguided people with liberal views can displace me from the prime position I occupy in the hearts of many others? No, let me tell you, my power is greater than you think. I have minions across the world who worship me as their ideal and live by the philosophy that I hold so dear: “I am always right and I know best. Those who feel or think differently are in the wrong and it is my solemn duty to make them conform to my view, whether by persuasion, threat or violence. Heads of state, politicians, administrators, art critics, religious heads, they are all my slaves. Ayatollah Khomeini, the Shiv Sena, the Taliban and our very own Mamata Banerjee, that crafty woman who holds the country and West Bengal to ransom, even she bows down to me in subjugation. For Freedom and I, We are two lions litter’d in one day, and I the elder and more terrible!”

But chasing down my enemies is just a part of my job. I enjoy a celebrity status of sorts in today’s society. Tell me one other person or issue which has been the center of so much debate and discussion? Never mind the burning issues that plague the world! They can wait. Yes, Kashmiri separatists go and talk openly with Pakistani terrorists, but it is cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who must be arrested on charges of sedition. Rapists escape arrest by virtue of being juvenile; after all, nude paintings of goddesses cause rape, not flawed mindsets! And the Class XI NCERT Political Science textbook, which has not seen a revision of content in a decade, is now being revised expeditiously by the Thorat Committee because its cartoons supposedly contain anti-Dalit content. Really, can you think of anything else that so systematically destroys coherent thought and action, yet has staunch and vociferous support from prominent and powerful people?

If I have managed to arouse in you a deep-seated fear of enlightened liberal thought, then I have accomplished my mission. As long as society remains fearful and oppressed, nothing and nobody can threaten my status. But don’t worry too much, Status Quo and stagnation are my best friends, so as long as you don’t disturb them, you’ll be safe. So, chup karo, khush raho!

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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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