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9 Dead Unburied. 82 Days Of Protests: What Was Completely Ignored This Republic Day

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By Anam Mittra

Source: Anam Mittra
Source: Anam Mittra

“It’s a David and Goliath kind of situation,” said Grace Hangzo, standing resolutely in the chilly Delhi weather at Jantar Mantar on the eve of India’s 67th Republic Day. She has been coming regularly to the venue for the past 82 days in solidarity with the Manipur Tribal’s Forum, Delhi (MTFD). MTFD has been protesting the deaths of nine tribal youths who were allegedly killed during violent protests that rocked Manipur on 31st August ’15, following the passing of 3 Bills by the Manipur Legislative Assembly, which are being termed as anti-Tribal.

The police are yet to file an FIR in the matter despite repeated requests and protests by the families. It’s been 148 days since the incident and the bodies are lying unburied in the Churachandpur district hospital morgue, as the families are demanding justice for the victims and a proper inquiry into the matter; none of which seems to be coming anytime soon. The state and central government have displayed tremendous apathy in his scenario, say the protesters. They allege that the governments are just waiting for the protests to die ‘a natural death’.

Manipur has been at the centre of a series of upheavals owing to divergent interests of the majority Meitei and minority tribal communities. July last year saw weeks of protests by the Meitei community who were demanding the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Manipur. The ILP, a British innovation, is a special pass that is required to enter states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram; it is being demanded in Manipur to protect indigenous culture from ‘outsiders’ (including non-Manipuris in India as well as migrants from Bangladesh).

The MTFD opine that the new Bills introduced will enable valley people (Meitei community) to purchase land in the hills which will have detrimental effects for the tribal people in the long run. The Manipur land revenue and land reforms Act, 1960 stated that non- tribals cannot own land in the hilly areas that are owned by the tribal communities and which constitute 90% of the land area in Manipur, unless they have permission from the District Commissioner and the District Councils. The Meitei people, on the other hand, have 40 of the 60 seats in the legislative assembly. There has been ample documentation of the violent history between the two communities; the sense one gets talking to the protesters is that the tribals are becoming increasingly marginalized and terrorized by the government and their economic and cultural interests are being sidelined by the majority.

Posted by Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi on Facebook
Posted by Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi on Facebook

In his speech made at Jantar Mantar, T. Romeo Hmar, Convenor of MTFD emphasized, ‘Our land, our rights, our identity. Tribals have their own rules and their own governance.’ He was referring to the demand for extension of the 6th Schedule to the tribal areas in Manipur. They want their own administration, as was the arrangement historically at the time of the Mughals and the British.
Rajya Sabha MP, Biswajit Daimary from the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), had brought this matter to attention in the parliament demanding setting up of a Parliamentary panel to look into the issue and assure the tribals of their safety. Daimary stressed that most urgent item on the agenda is the need for an unbiased inquiry into the deaths of the 9 young men and swift justice for them and their families.

It is difficult trying to fathom the struggles of these people who have withstood much worse for a long time, and who don’t seem to be ‘electorally ripe’ for anyone’s immediate attention. Despite this, the MTFD is determined to stand their ground and rally as much political support as possible.

As I left Jantar Mantar, I could hear Romeo Hmar quote John E. Lewis (American politician and civil rights leader), “If not us then who? If not now, then when?”

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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