This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In The Battle Of Open Letters, Now Rajdeep Sardesai Replies Back To Maharashtra C.M.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Rajdeep Sardesai

Editor’s note: On Sept 18, criticising the recent series of events in Maharashtra, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai wrote an open letter to Mr. Devendra Fadnavis about his “misplaced priorities”. On Tuesday, Fadnavis replied to Sardesai calling his letter an example of a misinformed media that is bashing the Government “with an agenda”. Here is Sardesai’s response to Fadnavis’s letter, originally published on his website.

Dear Devendraji,

Firstly, I wish to thank you for replying to my open letter and creating space for a public debate. This is a sign of a truly healthy democracy and is rare for a politician in this day and age. I truly appreciate that a big politician chooses to reply to a humble columnist: doesn’t happen too often in an age where the media is a soft target. However, while I do not wish this to become a tu-tu main-main, I must reserve the right to reply.

Sir, there are four basic issues that I raised in my original letter to which you have responded. Firstly, the meat and beef ban in Maharashtra. On the beef ban, the fact is that your government has imposed a statewide ban in a unilateral manner with no attempt to engage with the stakeholders. The results are there for all to see. Thousands of people associated with the cattle trade have overnight been rendered unemployed. They are all citizens of this country, many of whom voted for you in the last election. I haven’t heard a word of empathy for their plight ( a number of them belong to the minority community but let’s not go down there for now). Should I not ask as a journalist what useful public purpose has been served by this ban? Or does asking questions make me agenda driven?

The issue of a meat ban has a more chequered past. Yes, previous governments of the Congress-NCP, be it at the state or municipal level, have sought to impose bans on meat sale during the Jain festival. Under pressure from the Jain community, attempts have been made by your predecessors (and I mention this in my article without citing the dates) in 1994, 2003-04 and 2014 through government resolutions, but these were never widely enforced (the 94 order, for example, was never carried out), were often driven by a spirit of voluntarism (an “appeal” was made to close meat shops) and nor did they initially last beyond two days (although the August 2014 Government resolution did seek to extend it to four days). It is only this year that the BJP dominated Mira-Bhayandar municipal corporation imposed an unprecedented eight day ban on meat sale and strictly enforced it. Taking a cue, a group of BJP MLAs, councillors and Jain community persons met the municipal commissioner and sought to extend this to Mumbai city and have a similar eight day ban on meat sale across the city. It is only when the Shiv Sena and MNS opposed this, that your local leaders were forced to back off because they couldn’t muster a majority.

The message is clear and this was the point I was making: the state BJP wanted to impose, indeed was pushing to impose, a ban much wider in scope and ambit than in the past. And if I ask questions in this regard, am I agenda-driven or pseudo-secular or simply reflecting the concerns of a large section of the population who do not appreciate the ban culture, be it by a BJP government or a Congress government?

Let’s turn to Rakesh Maria and the musical chairs played with the police commissioner’s office. You claim that his sudden transfer was necessitated by the rush of festivals: a new man was needed to oversee the festival arrangements. Truth is, almost no senior police officer I have spoken to is willing to buy this theory. Those who have retired have openly scoffed at this explanation, those in service are naturally hesitant to speak out. The conjecture is that Mr Maria’s transfer has something to do with the ongoing Sheena Bora investigation or a personal animus. You seem to suggest that his role as commissioner in a murder case was purely supervisory. Maybe it was, or should be. But the fact is, your government after transferring him to DG Home Guards in the morning, the very same evening claims that he will continue to oversee the Bora investigation. This, even as a new police commissioner and another fine officer Ahmed Javed takes charge. Can there be anything more confusing? Then, to compound the confusion, your government now decides to suddenly hand over the Bora case to the CBI. The Mumbai police claimed in court that it had clinching evidence while seeking remand against the accused; then why is the case being transferred out? Is the Mumbai police incompetent, is there a cover-up, or is the case throwing up new dimensions which perhaps might need fresh investigation? Is a journalist not to ask such questions without his motives being questioned?

Let’s turn to the issue of sedition and a government circular. You claim that the circular is a routine translation from Marathi of an order passed by the previous state government. Your reply seems to suggest that the role of the present government is little more than clerical that requires no application of mind to a serious issue. Well, all I can say is that on Tuesday, the Mumbai high court gave a very different spin to this issue: on a petition by cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, they have asked your government not to implement the circular for now and asked you to reply by the 20th of October. Since the matter is now before the esteemed court, maybe we should wait to see how they interpret the government circular: clearly, this round has been won by those who are worried that the circular can be misused by the police. Also, if you are not in agreement with the sedition circular why did your government not withdraw it? `Sedition’ is hardly a weapon to be used in the armoury of a democratic government which should welcome debate and disagreement. Why did your government re-issue this circular? And if I point to this potential for misuse, am I being agenda driven or simply doing my duty as a journalist?

The fourth issue is one which is dear to your and my heart: the plight of the farmers, especially in Marathwada at the moment. As a politician from Vidarbha, I know you empathise with farmers issues; I am aware that you took a lead role in exposing the irrigation scam when in opposition. And I am also aware of your efforts through the Jal Yukta Shivir Yojana to try and improve the situation on the ground. The facts though are that 729 farmers have committed suicide since January in Marathwada alone, more than any other part of the country, and tanker mafias and usurious money-lenders continue to rule. Yes, this is an inherited legacy (and I refer to the irrigation failures and comments made by previous ministers in my original letter), but on the ground there is hardly any evidence of the situation showing any marked improvement. Maybe, if your micro-irrigation schemes do work, then, in the long run, there will be change. But for now, there is a deepening crisis. Should I not be asking you, therefore, to prioritise farm relief above all else? And should I not also ask what happened to the election promise of ensuring that those involved in the irrigation scam are punished? Or is asking hard questions in this age of cheerleaders and unbridled Bhakti, no longer acceptable?

My final point sir: in your response, at various points you call me a ‘leftist’, `pseudo-secular’, and ‘biased’. You also rather derisively placed the word senior, as in senior journalist, in inverted commas. Personal attacks are now par for the course; 27 years of journalism have helped me acquire the skin of a rhinoceros. Over the years, I have been attacked by one and all: in 1992-93, Sharad Pawar, also a former Maharashtra CM, threw me out of a press conference because of the questions I asked on the Mumbai riots. Ten years later, my coverage of the 2002 riots led to my being attacked again. I have stood up against all forms of extremism, Hindu and Muslim, and am suspicious of all dogmas, be it of left or right. I have exposed Congress corruption (as editor of a news channel, I supervised the path-breaking investigative story on the Quattorochi accounts being defrozen), and sangh parivar hate politics, Mulayam’s goondaism (for which I was summoned to the UP state assembly) and Mayawati’s disproportionate assets (for which our OB van was burnt). Please do go through my columns over the last two decades, especially on Maharashtra politics, a state whose social and political decline I have observed with dismay.

I am happy to introspect, be corrected, but dislike being pigeonholed in any manner, except to say that I do believe in the spirit of a liberal, plural India that strives to provide equal opportunities to all its citizens. Does that make me a “Leftist?” as you appear to caricature all dissenters or questioners? If I question any form of bigotry, does that make me pseudo-secular? In my view, it makes me a proud, humane Indian.

Post-script: I must also thank all your followers who ensured I trended all through Tuesday on twitter. Their constant abuse gives me strength. Look forward to meeting soon! Jai Maharashtra, jai Hind!

You must be to comment.
  1. Observer

    Rajdeep should be in mind-reading business. otherwise how did he know that Congress policy was driven by a spirit of volunteerism, while BJP’s is not. Should all legislation passed by government be accepted by people voluntarily or is it the job of government to enforce it? If legislation is not to be enforced, why should it be passed in first place?

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below