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With Growing Intolerance In India, Here’s What I Want Teenagers To Consider

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By Avinash Kumar Chanchal:

Dear Teenagers of India,

This is the first time that I am writing a letter to you. You all are growing up in the Digital Information age, which is also the information revolution age. You have advanced technology at your disposal today; you share video, texts, pictures with your friends in less than a minute. You are a very fast generation. You have full knowledge of the world, with information at your fingertips. You are more aware of your surroundings. I didn’t have that kind of knowledge or information in my teen age. But, today, I feel as if this digital knowledge era has certain malfunctions. There is lots of information at our disposal without any editing or censorship. Sometimes many religious groups are also misusing this digital technology to spread hatred.

Today, I am writing to you this important letter after reading many public statuses on social media, which worry me. Let me explain why.

I believe that we live in a country where intolerance is growing. Attacks on freedom of expression are increasing. A famous writer and activist like M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, who criticized religious superstition have been murdered. Many authors who are critically writing on religion have been banned or facing life threats.

Image source: Blogspot
Image source: Blogspot

A Muslim man Akhlaq was beaten to death and his son severely injured in Dadri after rumours spread in the area about the family storing and consuming beef. Two Dalit children were allegedly burnt alive in Sunpedh village by an Upper caste Rajput. The Government canceled the registration of an environmental watchdog like Greenpeace and several other civil society organizations. I have recently read some Facebook statuses in which many have criticized people who returned awards against this intolerance and religious extremism. Often many of us share or ‘forward’ jokes on secularism in our family whats app group. We make fun of people who criticize government policies. We call them anti-national.

I have noticed that many issues are being connected to nationalism. Like many others, if I am not a supporter of PM Narendra Modi, if I criticize government policies, if I am against budget cuts in education and health, then I am anti-development, anti-nationalist, anti-Modi and anti-Hindu.

I am very disappointed with these particular labels, ‘anti-national, anti-development’ that are inflicted on me in social media. I love my country; I am as much Indian as anyone else. If I am working as an activist to save Jal-Jungle-Jamin (water-forest-land) of this country that does not mean I am anti-national or anti-development. I believe this is part of our great culture and tradition to save our biodiversity, our river, forest, mountains, and water. If we want to save our great Indian culture and tradition we must save our land, forest and adivasis way of living. At least that’s what I believe.

I must acknowledge that you are the ones who are going to make this country a better place to live in. So I am reaching out to you. We need to understand that secularism is not an anti-religious idea. Secularism allows us to believe and freely practice whatever religion we want in our personal life, but it does not mean anyone can dictate what other members of the society should eat, behave or believe. Secularism means humanity, peace and development of any civilization or country.

I believe we must understand what is the spirit of our country, what is the idea of India. In my time, our country was based on “unity in diversity”.

Today I can see many people trying to politicize religion for certain vested interests. Politicizing religion and forcing religious ways on others is a definite way to damage the image of that religion. Religious extremism is a more destructive force than any other threat to the world that comes from an ideology that says “my way is right for everyone”. You, being the future of our beautiful country have to reject any politics, ideology or society which based on religion or any ethnicity.

We have to also understand that the Islamic state, the Boko haram all are trying to establish an extreme idea of a religious country where they will rule by an anti-humane, draconian law. They want to control our way of living, our freedom of expression, our arts, our history, and our science. They are anti-women, anti- caste, anti-poor. To love this world, love humanity, we don’t have to love people based on their religion or caste or any other identity. We love them because they are human and humanity should live longer than anything.

By,
A concerned citizen

You must be to comment.
  1. Shubhi

    very imp letter….. (y)

  2. Satyanand Gupta

    More power to you.

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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.

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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.

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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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)’.

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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.”

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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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