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Your “Cowardly Methods” Won’t Stop Us: The Pinjra Tod Movement Says It Loud And Clear!

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By Pinjra Tod: 

On the night of 21st Sept, a person claiming to be Akhil Choudhury from ABVP had called up and threatened two activists of Pinjra Tod with sexual abuse and violence for ‘daring’ to put up posters on top of ABVP posters. Our posters had obviously been torn down. As if the ‘Wall of Democracy’ now belonged to them. The show of support and solidarity we received from students the next morning, when the police were pressured to register an FIR, despite their reluctance, was incredible.

This aggressively masculine nature of student politics in Delhi University, where threats of sexual assault and silencing of women’s voices, is a routine practice. We were not going to take this silently. We were not ready to bow down and be policed, yet again, about what we could and could not do. Hence, we gave a call for a public event on 26th Sept, where we invited students of the university to join us in making colourful posters with feminist and queer messages that we would then go on to paste across the Wall of Democracy in Delhi University North Campus.

pinjra tod campaign posters

We were overwhelmed and exhilarated by what happened that day. We gathered in front of Arts Faculty from morning till dusk: sharing tales, painting, singing, drumming, dancing, coming together. It was an incredible sense of collective power to look at what transpired from those hours of labour and creativity: more than 150 posters with delightful and exciting feminist and queer messages, messages of struggle, of hope, of dreams. Around 3.30pm, we went around pasting these hand-made posters along with the printed ones announcing our Jan Sunwai across Delhi University. Just about half an hour later, a student comes rushing to where a few of us were sitting in front of Arts Faculty, with the torn remains of our posters, which she saw a man tear down vehemently from the Wall of Democracy opposite the DUSU office. He ran away immediately.

pinjra tod campaign torn posters 2As we looked at our torn posters, we were seething with rage. Hours of our sweat, blood and hard work had been destroyed in a matter of minutes. This reflects on the nature of student politics on this campus, where posters about women’s autonomy and struggle are to have absolutely no space. We do not know who exactly did this, but due to what had happened a few days earlier, we had reason to suspect who it maybe. We decided to head out to the DUSU office nearby to demand from the newly elected Union that they discuss this matter with us. We went and sat outside the DUSU office and called up the DUSU President, who instead of engaging with our concerns, told us that “It is your right to put up posters on the Wall of Democracy, but what happens to it, even a minute later, is not my responsibility.” All this while, the police kept giving us deadlines (as if we were not already tired of them) and warnings about how we were not allowed to be gathered around the DUSU office like this and should disperse. We did put up a few of our torn printed posters about the Jan Sunwai on the DUSU notice board, along with a few hand-made ones. The DUSU President claimed that the Union has no accountability regarding what happens to the Wall of Democracy, but at least it has control over what happens to its own notice board. When we checked today, those posters had all been removed from their notice board. This shows where the Union stands with regard to supporting the concerns of its women students.

pinjra tod campaign torn postersWhy were our posters repeatedly taken down? Who is feeling threatened? The tearing down of posters itself resonates with an overall resistance to a movement like Pinjra Tod due to it’s very nature that is targeting the root of the problem: patriarchy, hence disturbing the normalised dominant discourse. The discomfort that’s being expressed by those threatened to lose control over women is itself a marker of why the struggle is important. The tearing down of the posters was immensely disappointing and painful to see, but at the end of the day, we felt our point had been made. While we gathered together in a loud, assertive and public manner to challenge these aggressively masculine forces that seek to silence us, these forces were not even able to confront us directly, but resorted to cowardly methods of tearing our posters when we are not around in a desperate bid to reassert their patriarchal power.

The struggle is on. We hope we will see you gather in huge numbers at the Jan Sunwai at Jantar Mantar on 10th October 2015.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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