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With Judges Recused And Raids On Activists, How Long Is The Govt. Going To Play Innocent?

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By Abhishek Jha

The government may claim innocence. Perhaps it even is innocent and no attempts have been made by the BJP and its affiliates to subvert the cause of justice, but it is a claim which stands on shaky ground now. That is because even if the BJP isn’t trying to subvert the law, it isn’t assisting the pursuit of justice either. As the state loses ground on several cases, the BJP’s attempt at protecting its own, its selective deployment of state machinery against those who stand against it is only aggravating the damage.


Former minister from Gujarat Maya Kodnani, and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 for their role in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002. Both of them, along with 30 other accused had filed an appeal against their conviction in the Gujarat HC. Last year, a division bench of Gujarat High Court had recused themselves from hearing a bail plea of Maya Kodnani. Last Monday Justice G.B. Shah recused himself from hearing the appeal of the Naroda Patiya massacre accused. A new bench was constituted by the acting Chief Justice comprising of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice K.S. Jhaveri. On Wednesday, both these justices recused themselves from hearing the appeal. Justice M.R. Shah went on to say, “We are not bound to disclose this but some accused persons tried to approach us. Therefore we cannot hear this case now.

Illustration by Maitri Dore

What’s interesting is that during these developments, on Tuesday the office and residence of Teesta Setalvad, who’s Citizens for Justice and Peace has been assisting the victims of the 2002 Gujarat communal violence, was raided by the CBI. This raid and the judges’ recusal will not be viewed in isolation. That is to say that when activists like Setalvad accuse the government of witch-hunting of activists, people are going to believe them. Perhaps even if these activists do not protest, people are now going to find it hard to believe the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat. There have been too many developments recently to deem all of it co-incidental.

Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian accused in June that the NIA had tried to influence her into going soft on the 2008 Malegaon blast accused and that this stance had been proposed to her post the new government’s arrival. Julio Ribiero, a retired IPS officer, wrote post this revelation, “Salian’s lament on being asked to go soft on Hindu extremists accused of terrorist acts frightens us to believe that the country is steadily being led on to the path trodden by our surly neighbour on our western border. The masterminds of the 26/11 attacks are treated like heroes in Pakistan. We are not there yet, but if hidden hands nudge the judicial system to free murderers of the saffron variety, we will be soon.

Soon after Salian’s revelations, news emerged that Samjhauta and Ajmer Blast witnesses, one of whom is now a minister in Jharkhand, had been turning hostile since the inception of the new government. In what appears to be a case of quid pro quo, the minister in Jharkhand had in fact defected to the BJP only this year. The accused again have associations with Hindutva organisations that pledge support to the BJP.

So when CBI descends on Teesta Setalvad, even as she cooperated fully in a previous embezzlement case, on an FCRA violation when final hearings are to be made on Zakia Jafri’s case against Narendra Modi, the common man is bound to notice. This is because people have seen how a CBI probe was delayed for a long time in the Vyapam scam even as several people died. People are also going to notice that witnesses in Asaram Bapu case are dying. While the government fails to protect witnesses and whistleblowers, the accused seem to have an easy time. This, the BJP should know, is not something that people who have expressed hope in the new government will not notice.

Meanwhile, Teesta Setalvad has argued that the government’s interest in National Judicial Appointments Commission is an effort to influence the judiciary and erode its independence, which she likens to the situation just before the Emergency. When the Prime Minister thinks it befitting to keep the Judiciary free from “five-star activists“, it appears strange that he would try to have clout over a body that is supposed to act independently. It is stranger still that he maintains a stony silence on major plagues like Vyapam, or his ministers embroiled in Lalit-gate, and on cases of communal violence while painting a sanguine future for India in staged speeches. It is bound to make even a gullible supporter of BJP sceptical.

The government came to power relying hugely on publicity campaigns that extolled Narendra Modi and rubbed him clean of any taint of communalism. It promised a corruption free country and a developed India: things that the aspirational Indians fed up of the incumbent government wanted. But those campaigns aren’t going to work unless the people of country are severely in the grips of ideology. Only someone who is fanatically obsessed with the goal of a Hindu Rashtra, who is ready to sacrifice even one’s own conscience and morality for the sake of this goal, can put faith in the BJP.

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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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