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Jon Stewart Did It Years Ago, But India Still Needs AIB’s ‘Satirical Movement’

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By Rahul Jain:

AIB recently went mainstream with their bi-lingual television program ‘On Air with AIB’ which has received a lot of appreciation, if their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are anything to go by. Luckily for the world, they follow a trend and have not provided a unique offering.

Satirical media has existed for quite a while, and although initially in the 1800’s it solely consisted of hoax articles peppered with the standard news, such as The Sun’s six article series now famously known as the great moon Hoax. The trend can still be observed on April Fools’ Day every once in a while. Even on television the trend has existed for quite a while with the renaissance movement in the UK known as Satire Boom under the most prominent and the slightly misleading name, That Was The Week That Was. USA got into the picture in the 1980’s with Not Necessarily the News. Print media hadn’t died as The Onion began an in-college print publication in 1988, shifted online in 1996 and is today one of the biggest satirical magazines in the world.


However, most of these forms were not directly linked to daily events and often curtailed the understanding of the people on the subject. They formed an interesting read, but unless you were updated on the topic at hand, you wouldn’t really gain anything from them.

The game changer was Jon Stewart. His stint on Comedy Central made him into one of the most credible sources of satirical comedy for the American population. He has never been shy of calling out the people who have tried to mislead the masses. He has also been brutally honest about the nature of his show- which is not a news show. He was also responsible for creating the Colbert report, another satirical faux news show.

The marked difference over here lies in the fact that this was not hoax, this was opinionated. The news being presented was real and the topics were hard-hitting and relevant to the current events. Another trend began as they always provided material on the basis of which they formed and presented their opinion and left no room for the misinterpretation in terms of the event itself. This was a massive shift in terms of usage of satire.

India has not been too far behind in the game. Faking News was founded by Rahul Roushan in 2008 as a news satire website focusing on publishing fake news, taking a jibe at the events and the society in general. The Week That Wasn’t was the sole torch-bearer for satire on Indian television and eventually it ran into trouble over the topic of the ban on Sri Lankan players in IPL.

While Trevor Noah is the successor of Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report is an offspring of The Daily Show, the spiritual successor of Jon Stewart is John Oliver with the HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. One has to give credit to him for creating ripples in the real world. For instance, in his popular net neutrality segment, John explained the ‘fast lanes’ concept which undermined the free and open internet. He went on to request the viewers to write to the Federal Communication Commission on the change which was one of the factors responsible for the servers crashing due to inflow of user comments. John Oliver brought along a number of changes that have enhanced viewer engagement, be it from a 7 month long incognito interaction with televangelists to pursuing individual tax forms to finding out the actual amount spent by the Miss America Pageant to providing citations for the references he makes. He provides credibility on every aspect through his satirical comedy, and the impact of it tells everything as he is on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list.

So, when AIB came up with On Air With AIB on HotStar, they luckily were not trying something completely untested. They were simply becoming the next in line of a trend that is not old but has its roots deep in history. But they have still taken a shot at reinventing the wheel by having the show in two formats and involving the celebrity circle as much as they could. This is important as nothing in media will be cut from a different cloth. You will always be able to trace impressions of some other concept or show in something else. That being said, the popularity is always defined by the crowd they cater to, and AIB is leaving little to chance by ‘Indianising’ satire as much as they could. A lot of things are going right and luckily the onus of being a torchbearer is not on them alone. East India Comedy has also provided their support to the satirical movement in India with their online series EIC Outrage and started off with the most controversial topic in India right now- Beef.

It is important for India to have a checking system on its news as it sways the views of millions and satirical media has always meant to do that. While the foreign counterparts have had significantly more impact, they have also had a lot more liberty to play with. AIB is coming off a not-so-old fiasco over their roast and have not hesitated from bringing satire to the mainstream media which may very well go on to become the next Indian satirical superpower.

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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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