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‘If Criticism Is Not Civil, It Becomes Hooliganism’, Take Aamir Khan’s Case For Example

By Aditya Chaturvedi:

Protesting in front of Aamir Khan’s house, calling him a traitor, launching a nationwide smear campaign against him, hurling invectives on social media, suggesting that he goes to Saudi Arabia, filing FIRs and vowing to boycott his films in the future, etc., are some of the reactions from the public that we saw after Aamir Khan’s comments at the Goenka Awards on 23rd November, 2015.

What did Aamir Khan say at those awards that warranted such a response? He expressed his point of view that there is rising intolerance in India, something that scares his wife Kiran Rao, who once expressed concern and wanted to leave the country. Seeing the reactions to Aamir’s expression of speech has saddened me.

I believe that these reactions are totally puerile, unwarranted, uncalled for and are an infringement of a person’s constitutionally enshrined democratic right of free expression. These intimidatory tactics are classic fascist stratagems that aim to cow down anyone who doesn’t tow the line and aims to instill a psychological fear in their mind.

It seems to me that the masses have this obsession with a form of -aggressive nationalism that rouses their sentiments, the moment someone speaks against the nation or their concept of nationality.

People should understand the fine demarcation between Patriotism and Nationalism.

According to Edward Abbey, Patriotism is to protect the country against the Government when the Government is wrong.

Whereas, Nationalism, especially right-wing nationalism is a cult. A cult of extremism, violence, immense pride in one’s culture, tradition, language etc., and scorning at all others as being unworthy, vile, polluted and barbaric.

An extreme manifestation of chauvinism is Nationalism.

Nationalism has always had fascist connotations. And nationalism always emanates conflicts, wars and violence, as we have seen from the First and Second World Wars.

protests against aamir khan

We all saw how the Hindu Mahasabha protested outside Aamir Khan’s house post his statements. Those with such sectarian sentiments should understand that they should curtail their sanctimonious chest thumping jingoism that just makes them run amok like a bull in a China shop at the mere mention that someone wishes to leave the country.

I had personally criticised Aamir Khan for his statement when I first heard of it, which in my reckoning reeked of hypocrisy, self-righteousness and was a gimmick. Personally, I don’t believe the entire environment in India is intolerant, but the reactions to his statement worry me.

I had all the right reasons to castigate him and so does everyone else, after all we all have a right to free speech, with which comes a window of criticism and questioning. But criticism of any individual, however scathing, has to be in the bounds of civility, else it ceases to be constructive criticism or even a searing vitriol and turns into unabated hooliganism by politically/ ideologically motivated hoodlums and miscreants.

There are some points which I would like to bring to the notice of those who unceremoniously reacted to Aamir Khan and continue to do so, with their statements to boycott his movies:

1) What Aamir Khan said, keeping aside the veracity of his statement or his possible motivations, was totally legitimate and was no criminal offence.

A citizen of India has all the rights of freedom of expression and other fellow compatriots too have all the rights to fulminate, rhetort and pen rejoinders. But hysterically protesting against him and filing FIRs are totally unwarranted.

2) Any person living in India is not compelled, in any way to subscribe to a particular brand of nationalism or even be an ardent patriot. It’s insanity to even presume such an absurd thought and protest against someone for not being a ‘Nationalist’ or a ‘Patriot’.

As long as a person abides by constitutional principles, the law of the land and hasn’t been booked in the past for a misdemeanour, financial impropriety or a heinous criminal offense, it is no one’s concern what ‘ism’ (ideology) a person follows. Whether he loves his country or mocks/derides/lampoons the nation are all fine unless he is in cahoots with some agencies or syndicates that are against the interests of the citizenry and the nation at large.

3) Migration and seeking greener pastures has been going on since the inception of human civilization. It’s a phenomenon that is perhaps as old as the evolution of the homo sapiens. Migration has contributed a lot to our educational and scientific developments, aesthetic and artistic attainments, culinary refinements and confluence of philosophical/ cultural streams leading to a composite, syncretic, plural and heterodox crucible or melting pot of cultures.

So being xenophobic about Aamir Khan’s statement about ‘leaving the country’ is tantamount to bring infantile, philistine and intellectually asinine.

4) When Indians have sailed to placid harbours overseas for centuries, and the vibrant Indian diaspora is across all the continents from Kuala Lumpur to Vancouver and from Seoul to Rio De Janeiro, why froth at the mouth when someone has purportedly expressed his wish to migrate, be it for whatever reasons.

Some of the biggest sponsors of RSS/ BJP are overseas Indians and PM Modi’s most loyal followers are NRIs/ PIOs.

What I want to express through this article is that it is completely baseless for us to ‘protest’ on the streets or hurl abuses against someone for expressing their opinion. Our dissent is and should be personal, it is not something we can force on other people. Now whether Aamir Khan wants to leave the country or not is his personal choice, we shouldn’t compel him to do it because it is ‘our choice’.

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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.

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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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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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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