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In The Face Of ‘Dark Times’, Why I Think It Is Important To Keep The Protest Going

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By Rishiraj Bhowmick:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Treason, gunpowder and plot!
I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason,
Shall ever be forgot!’

This particular stanza is perhaps the most appropriate one to start this report regarding the History Department seminar of Ambedkar University, which was held on 3rd and 4th of November. The seminar was called, “In the Dark Times”, keeping in light the recent events across the country.

Image source: Rishi Bhowmick
Image source: Rishi Bhowmick

Although one must remember that the aforementioned stanza is used to remind us about the treason committed by a person called Guy Fawkes, whose effigy is burnt down every year on this date, the poem itself has formed itself as an anthem of the ‘Anarchists’ thanks to recent pop culture of graphic novels and a movie.

When I say anarchy, it must give rise to certain questions. Because the term in itself poses a great threat to the sanctity of the Constitution and the Nation. Yet, if we look out of the windows or the first page of our preferred newspaper, we will see that the country will somehow fall into anarchy as a resistance against a very fascist nature of the Government.

I asked a question related to anarchy as a combat method against a supremacist state to Teesta Setalvad, who was our first speaker of the seminar held on 3rd November. Her topic was “Some Experience, Some Lessons”, where she shared her memories and experiences right from 1993.

1993 is the building point of everything that is going on right now, the epicenter of the tidal waves that we are facing every day. Right from the day when a certain political party suddenly decided that it was for the betterment of a particular religion to demolish a certain religious monument and declare it something else. What happened at Dadri isn’t directly linked to 1993, but somehow it reflects the image, maybe a foggy image.

Image source: Rishi Bhowmick
Image source: Rishi Bhowmick

But this kind of communalism is not new to us, is it? The animosity between two particular sets of religion has been there right from 1930’s with the conception of both RSS and the Muslim League and having a look at the recent events, keeping in mind the 150-year-old conflict, it seems to be a longer conflict. However, to our horror, what was just a political conflict using religion as a tool for different political goals and demands has now become a monster under a new ‘management’.

What makes it ironic is that we call our country a secular democratic country, yet, as Ms. Setalvad put it so clearly, is the fact that what we are seeing is a façade, a veneer of democracy. What we have now is a violent authority which courts supremacy and is driven by a concept of ethnic cleansing, something the world saw during 1939 to 1945. The said political party in power today is nothing but a political branch of a religiously fanatic group with a mission which makes it no different from some of the very fanatic antisocial outfits we see engaged in crimes. It is interesting to see how politics and religion exchange their position in the power play. With secularism out of the window, Ms. Setalvad spoke about the threat to democracy, where we are seeing what the political philosophers and intellectuals are calling ‘Saffronization’, then be it our basic education in school, University spaces or the interferences in our food habits and dress choices. Everything is being coloured in the name of ‘ancient glory of Indian civilization’. I admit, as a citizen and perhaps the future contributor to India that we indeed had a great past. But being all fanatic and supremacist about it, being what we see as fascist is not a very great idea.

To answer my question, Ms. Setalvad said, and I quote, “anarchy is not the only way to combat supremacy, but when all else fails, there must be other options, although I do not support that, but if we must, we should.”

It would be injustice just to speak of one speaker of our seminar. Eminent scholars who spoke, like Gautam Navlakha, Dilip Simeon, Ashok Bhowmick and Anirudh Deshpande, or the panelists of the discussion called “Changing educational regimes – suffocating fluorescence?” tread on the same path. We are under a government whose roots could be found in a communally rigid institution which is silent amidst all the chaos. Maybe some of them are even the brainchild of the particular institution. What we are looking at is a classic case of a fascist, authoritarian government.

Image source: Rishi Bhowmick
Image source: Rishi Bhowmick

At one point of time, I might have disagreed with all of them, why wouldn’t I? After all, the previous government had been the epitome of scandals right from the people who led it and the political party that the government stemmed from. But what I am seeing now, the growing intolerance and hatred for a community from both sides, the moral policing of a ‘Cultural Messiah’ and the people who are on a mission to reclaim the ancient glory, is making me wonder about the choice we made as citizens and the dangers that might be coming our way. There are people who open their mouth to make us either cringe with shame and disgust, and what more is dangerous is that our voice of protest is being choked to silence and death. And those who are still carrying on protesting are being labeled as traitors and anti-nationalist, even ‘advised’ to leave the country!

The whole point of the seminar was to make us realize a couple of things; first, that any form of protest is viable if it makes a difference. Second, that we have to keep these protests going or we must choose to submit ourselves to a perpetual, silent slavery, and perhaps thirdly, that these elements will do anything to keep us quiet.

When I was in my 2nd year of graduation, I read a novel by George Orwell, ‘1984’; I was horrified by the author’s imagination, but was able to shake it off. After all, it was just an imagination, right?

Who knew that the Orwellian times are laughing right at our faces with rabid teeth?

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You must be to comment.
  1. Sanjay

    Great article, but a little alarmist in nature.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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