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That ‘Bhatkal’ Breather, This ‘Tunda’ Trial: On India And Terror

More from Dr. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

By Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar:

The picture’s been bleak, on the security and foreign-affairs front for India, for the past few weeks. On one hand, one could find Chinese soldiers requesting Indian soldiers for photo-shoots near Indian posts in what they called ‘Chinese India’, and on the other hand, Pakistani forces killed 5 Indian jawans at the Line of Control before the Pakistan Senate moved a resolution to term India as the aggressor in recent border skirmishes: a move that was seen as a mockery of the sacrifice made by our soldiers! This may have been met with counter-resolutions and aggressive sloganeering but the issues largely remained unresolved, and the episode only highlighted the meek posture of the Indian MEA and defence establishment. Terrorist attacks are being carried out with a high incidence rate, be it in Bodh Gaya or elsewhere. And in this murky mix, one has suddenly found events that stand out as a ray of light shining through the translucence.


Much like the way Obama got a breather by the killing of USA’s Public Enemy #1 Osama Bin Laden, the capture of Yasin Bhatkal on 28th August 2013 may provide a temporary reprieve for the Indian government. Yasin Bhatkal is allegedly the man who founded the Indian Mujahideen (IM) in 2008, notorious for its activities in the Indian sub-continent and second to none in terms of their terror activities. Bhatkal, born as Ahmed Sidibapa, is on the NIA most wanted list and hails from Bhatkal, Karnataka (hence, the moniker used to refer to him). After the capture of an IM operative in 2011 and two of Bhatkal’s associates subsequently, the intelligence and security establishments of India started Operation Bhatkal to nab the man. After a long chase, Bhatkal was caught in North Bihar. Bhatkal is accused of being responsible for terror strikes in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, besides being responsible for setting up terror modules in at least eight cities. He is good at disguising himself and has escaped capture deftly a number of times. Incidentally, he tried convincing his captors that he was an engineer when he was nabbed. He even tried to deceive them by telling them that he was a doctor, when his initial ruse was seen through. Products of the machinations of a scheming mind!

Another prize catch was that of Abdul Karim Tunda on 16th August 2013. Tunda, ideologue and expert bomb-maker in the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was caught by the Indian defence establishment near the Indo-Nepal border. It is speculated that he was on his way to carry out more attacks, after Hafiz Saeed gave a call to all terror-outfits to increase their terror activities on and around Independence Day. By his own admission, Tunda was responsible for propping up the LeT in India and making it more than just a Jammu & Kashmir — centred outfit. He admitted that he came in contact with the terror-group in 1991 and has, since then, been working tirelessly to build the outfit outside Kashmir. A carpenter-turned terrorist, Tunda was responsible for a number of terror-attacks, besides being a part of the initiative to channel Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) into India. He has been in touch with outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Indian Mujahideen and Babbar Khalsa, and with people like Dawood Ibrahim and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

A point of interest in both cases, and that relates to nearly all terrorists, is that of the emergence of terror in the most unlikely places and contexts. One is driven to ask why carpenters in Delhi, students in Kerala and labourers in Karachi are driven to such measures. Most often ideology has a negligible role in the terror activities of the ground-level operatives. Kasab had very little to do with the fiery ‘ideology’-driven speeches of Hafiz Saeed. Historically, it has been seen that the marginalized, the weak, the deprived have taken up terror as a means to attain their goals. The ULFA, the LTTE and the IRA are some examples of outfits that sprang from genuine concern for the deprivation of communities in a certain political structure. This is in sharp contrast to the lives and settings of most operatives in India today. Socio-economic factors play a big role in the conversion of a common man into a terrorist. Besides the very evident economic, and for some – social, problems of some of these individuals, the lives led by these people before their phase as terrorists do not seem to have any factor that instigates them to take up terror, anarchism and violence for attaining goals laid down by fire-spewing ideologues half the sub-continent around. One may be driven to enquire if the changing socio-economic times have led students to take up identity-politics to secure a good future. Today, people may say that outfits like SIMI are thriving because of ideological leanings of students, but one cannot deny that most often the students most affected by these overtures by terror-outfits are fringe-players or those that have found some glaring inadequacy in the present system. If that is so, then we are all the poorer in presenting an inclusive society, a society that has opportunities for all. Increase in community-based economics and lack of economic-mobility is a dangerous trend as well. Today one can see certain communities of weavers who have not done anything other than weaving in generations, and live in a sorry state. Politics of religion and caste, or on any divisive lines, is a dangerous stimulant at times for such conversions. Even though new terror-recruits may be indoctrinated to the point where rationale fails to win over that which is fed to the accepting mind, one can always try to present a case, as a society, that makes a person think twice before picking up a gun.

Education is a key element in this whole subject. Education of young minds is the pivot on which the balance of society rests. Here I am not only talking of religious and independently run schools that indoctrinate students with elements that promote terrorism, be it in Pakistan, India or elsewhere, but I am also talking about the need to instil in students the idea that quick-fire solutions and promotion of one’s interests need not necessarily be through aggressive and often violent ways but one should have the conduit of dialogue, open.

A lot of thinking has to go into how to formulate these ideas into action in the foreseeable future. Or else, Indians will continue to rise and strike against India, just as Tunda and so many others before him did.

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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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