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“There Was No Cold War Till The Aggressive Stance Of Shri Arvind Kejriwal”

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By Kainat Sarfaraz for Youth Ki Awaaz:

The Aam Aadmi Party was created with the objective of contributing towards a more transparent democracy. However, the recent infighting has raised questions about the party’s internal democracy itself. In March, a series of leaked letters revealed that some of the senior leaders in AAP were unhappy with the way the party was functioning. From candidate selection to faulty donations, the party has been accused of indulging in dishonest means. Leaders like Yogendra Yadav, Prof Anand Kumar and Prashant Bhushan were ousted from the National Executive of the Aam Aadmi Party after they made such claims.

anand kumar

As a comeback of sorts, these leaders initiated a political reform movement few weeks ago. Named as Swaraj Abhiyan, the movement aims to bring about reforms and make space for alternative politics. The movement has support of all the AAP volunteers who were disenchanted by the lack of internal democracy in the party. Leaders of the Abhiyan have repeatedly claimed that their only aim is to create a new political agenda for the country and work towards bringing democratic changes in AAP itself. The movement intends to work at grass-root level and create the platform and space for debate, discussion and dissent.

To know more, Youth Ki Awaaz got in touch with Professor Anand Kumar, who is one of the founders of this movement.

Q. In an interview with Hindustan Times, you have been quoted as saying, “There is no cold war (in AAP). We’re trying to get closer.” Given the current situation, would you still stand by that statement?

A. There was no cold war till the open and aggressive stance of Shri Arvind Kejriwal, as was evident in his audio tape about Prashant Bhushan, YY, Ajit Jha and me. Then it became an all out attack for eliminating all dissenting voices including Lokpal Ramdas, and NE members Prof Rakesh Sinha and Vishal Sharma. The elimination drive has now percolated to state and district levels. From the expelled leaders side there is equally forceful campaign in the form of Swaraj Abhiyan to claim the heritage of swaraj and anti corruption movement.

Q. There is a growing perception that instead of being a reformist movement, Swaraj Abhiyan aims to be a political party and it is currently gathering support before making formal announcements. Your comments on this.

A. It is not a misplaced enquiry, because there was a visible minority of 25% participants who have voted in favour of creating a new political party to carry on the process of alternative politics. After expulsion of the supporters of internal reformist line like YY, Ajit Jha, PB and me, the supporters of creating a new party have increased in a sizeable manner.

Q. From Jayalalithaa to PM Modi, personality cult politics rules the roost today and yet it has been a major bone of contention for Swaraj Samwad. In the era of PR and media blitzkrieg, how do you think it is possible to abstain from it and still win elections?

A. Politics of personality cult has not been the major game changer in recent elections, otherwise Congress investment in promoting personality of Rahul Gandhi may have yielded better results. It is always problems plus programs plus processes of connecting with people plus personality or the face of the campaign.

Q. You have also mentioned in your Facebook post that the party has shifted towards ‘autocratic politics’. What are the chances of a cooperative relationship with the party in future, if any?

A. Unity in action is the only way for diverse parties for working together on the basis of a ‘win-win’ approach. In case of AAP, Swaraj Abhiyan is the most unacceptable part of the present political spectrum. There are more chances of increasing distance and disagreements in Delhi than proximity and cooperation, as these are the last things in the wish list of AAP leadership at the moment.

Q. On one hand, the law minister of Delhi has been accused of having a fake degree. While on the other, the Delhi government has set up an anti-corruption helpline. In the presence of such contrasting scenarios, how will you rate the Aam Aadmi Party’s governance in Delhi?

A. There are more deficits than dividends in the last 10 weeks of governance by AAP in Delhi. It has not moved on the anti corruption front beyond a telephone number and innumerable hoardings with the photographs of the CM. It was expected that the announcement of the Lokayukt will be one of the top most priorities of the AAP govt. in power, similarly there is declining transparency in governance with increasing hostility towards media in general. Inaccessibility and non-availability of the ministers and the MLA’s is another area of common criticism.

Q. From being involved in the Janata Party movement to this, you have witnessed and been a part of two different eras. How has the democracy and political scenario grown since those times?

A. There are paradoxical trends in today’s politics in comparison to the JP movement and Janata party government days. We have a much larger social base for anti corruption forces. But there is much greater individualism also; it looks paradoxical because we do not have any one on the political horizon today who can be comparable with towering leaders like JP, Morarji, Charan Singh, Jag Jeevan Ram, Vajpayee, Raj Narayan and George Fernandes, but there is too much individualism and hero worship in the politics of today. Secondly there was much higher cautiousness about the need of democratic values and practices. Today we see more and more pragmatism bordering opportunism.

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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 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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