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

“Do Or Die, Or Die Doing”: Editor Of ‘Nagaland Page’ Raises Voice For Press Freedom

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Monalisa Changkija:

As the theme speaker for National Press Day, celebrated on November 16, I had said: “But there comes a time in the life of an individual, as much as in the life of a society, when we must do or die, or die doing, because only a few of us are blessed with the courage of conviction to live beyond and above our own selves. And we solemnly observe National Press Day today because we, those of us gathered here today, have vowed to be guided by our courage of conviction… I think those of us gathered here today will agree that it is worth laying down our lives for.” This was in reference to the Assam Rifles’ censorious “notification” to newspapers in Nagaland, and the Nagaland editors’ joint public statement thereof, which is now in the public domain.

The blank editorials in three Nagaland newspapers — the Nagaland Page, Eastern Mirror and Morung Express — on November 16, were also messages for all who would gladly muzzle the press one way or the other. There are many such agents, though not all of them are armed groups or non-state actors, or even the security forces. In Nagaland, there are too many power centres. The state government does not govern. Rather, it outsources governing, hence creating a huge vacuum that is filled by several parallel governments.Monalisa Letter

Then there is the ubiquitous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA), which has been enforced here for over 60 years, empowering the security forces to become one of the several parallel governments. Caught between all these parallel governments, the local media functions in an extremely precarious environment. The blank editorials could be perceived as extreme or drastic for anyone without the experience of living in such precarious situations, but for us, it was a cry to survive, a cry for survival. We have been living between the devil and the deep blue sea for far too long and the time had come “when we must do or die, or die doing, because only a few of us are blessed with the courage of conviction to live beyond and above our own selves.” Notice that of the six newspapers “notified” by the Assam Rifles, only three decided to resort to blank editorials — it was the individual decision of each newspaper.

The blank editorials also reflect the larger issue of the functioning of the press in insurgency-afflicted regions and states, particularly in the Northeast. I also perceive the Assam Rifles’ “notification” to be a tactic to divert attention from its own, as indeed the other security forces’, failure to contain and curb the activities of armed organisations and groups in Nagaland and the region, which is evidence of the failure of AFSPA itself — exactly what the Northeast has been saying to the government of India all this time, and whose most assertive message is Irom Sharmila’s fast unto death for the last 16 years.

Contrary to what was tacitly underlined in the Assam Rifles’ “notification” to us, the press is not the cause of the “thriving” of the insurgency or armed groups’ activities, but a victim of the failure of AFSPA, the Assam Rifles and indeed the rest of the security forces deployed here to contain and curb them. Also, while the Assam Rifles quoted the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, to control and dictate to the Nagaland press, and we respect this act, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs should have directly, or through the Nagaland state government, consulted with us on the issue of dealing with the publication of press releases/ statements of banned groups. Unless the ministry is trying to gag the Nagaland press obliquely through the Assam Rifles? But is the Assam Rifles constitutionally mandated to issue such “notifications” to any press? But then again, anyone who is well versed with the situation in Nagaland (and the rest of the Northeast) will know that it is very difficult to comprehend the internal working and decision-making logic of the security forces, or indeed of the MHA, given that Afspa is still in force here.

To my knowledge, the Assam Rifles sent such a notice for the first time. But the media in Nagaland is not just a few decades old. Our first newspaper — Ao Milan — started in 1932 or 1934. More newspapers, all weeklies, started in the mid to late 1960s, which was not easy, considering the level of development, or underdevelopment, at that point in our history. Besides, the political situation was not convivial either — it was the height of insurgency and Afspa was in force.

So it wouldn’t surprise anyone if similar notices were formally issued to Nagaland newspapers in those earlier days, or even in the 1970s and 1980s, by the army or the Assam Rifles.

But it is not always through such “notices” that the security forces intimidate the local press. In the last 30 years, I have personally experienced the numerous methods the security forces use to muzzle press freedom in Nagaland. It is only since 1997, after the ceasefire agreement between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), and later with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), that the security forces toned down their actions and have actually reinvented themselves as “friends” of our people. Before that, it was more or less a state of military rule with the writ of AFSPA looming large. Still, it must be said that despite the ceasefires between the Indian government and various non-state actors, AFSPA is still enforced. So, in one form or another, martial rule continues. This has become more evident after the abrogation of the ceasefire between the government of India and the NSCN(K). Under these circumstances, we had no option but to respond to the censor.

Monalisa Changkija is Editor of the Nagaland Page, an English daily published from Dimapur.
This post was originally published on The Indian Express and has been reposted with permission from the author.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Aditya Jaiswal

By Arun Kr Jaiswal

By Jeet

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