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Beef, Free Speech And More: 7 Heated Topics That Will Continue To Be Debated In 2016

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By Amrit Mann Grewal

We might have ushered into a new year, but the baggage of 2015 continues. Accept it or not, as Indians we love to cling to controversies, argue irrationally in the name of debate, love something and detest it the very next minute.

2015 was a rather interesting year – with its long list of debates and controversies. Some were new and definitely caught our attention; others were pretty much the same – just moulded to suit a different audience with pretty much – the same root cause.

There are some issues that will never die in this country, or let’s say if they die, a certain strata will have nothing left to do. If the Ram Mandir controversy dies down and we finally have a solution, imagine how jobless some of our politicians will be. Nothing to crib about, no one to blame!

Imagine if there is finally a solution to the impending Kashmir issue – what will we fight with Pakistan over? How will we critique Modi’s handshake with Nawaz Sharif? Leave that – what will hardliners thrive on!

We are an agenda-based nation. Like it or not – we love our share of controversies and yes we don’t let them die an easy death.

1. Truce With Pakistan – A Distant Dream?

Political doublespeak has only made matters worse for the impending Kashmir row. Accept it or not, we will never know what happens behind closed diplomatic doors. 2015 was a troublesome year for Indo-Pak relations with continuous ceasefire violations and militant attacks. We blame them for attacks, then out of nowhere PM Modi surprises us with his friendly gestures towards Nawaz Sharif and then again we hear of cold vibes between the two. Every government in power has committed to ‘resolve’ the issue, but do we really understand the problem? Is it about religion, region, history or simple ego clash? There is still a lot to fix between the two nations. Only time will tell if that ever happens.

2. To Love Modi Or Hate Kejriwal

modi and kejriwalLove them or hate them, but you definitely cannot ignore these two men. While one debunked electoral theories and won an emphatic election to be in power, the other re-defined the word ‘common man’ and entered a fierce, unforgiving world of politics to change rulebooks.

Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal have their own set of lovers and detractors and a distinct approach towards resolving issues. Pitted against each other by political pundits, both have scripted electoral history and have tasted enormous public support. Both leaders also enjoy an online Army of soldiers who love to slug it out on Twitter – which to me is pretty hilarious.

Be it Modi’s foreign trips or Kejriwal’s ‘odd-even’ rule, both have managed to remain in the limelight and so has the debate around who’s better. Well, it seems the power battle is here to stay and so is the leadership debate between India’s top two politicians.

3. To Be Straight Or Gay

In a nation where the ‘right-wing army’ is up in arms against ‘lovers’ on something like a Valentine’s Day – imagine the plight of homosexuals. Section 377, which makes sex with persons of the same gender punishable by law, has been the most debated topic in the country. To choose a partner of one’s own preference is nothing short of a crime in this country.

The ability to walk with their head held high and a freedom to openly acknowledge their sexual orientation seems to be a far-fetched dream.

While a majority of Indians have an ‘opinion’ and ‘judgement’ on homosexuals, I wonder how many of us stand up against issues that really need to be heard and acted upon. Good or bad, the debate around the freedom to choose seems to continue. Rape laws – someone listening?

4. The Appetite Fight

I call 2015 – the year of the beef. The beef ban, widespread protests and lynching of a Muslim man for possessing beef, definitely was a low point for all of us. Not only was this a sign of growing intolerance in the country but a poor reflection of how we judge a sect over its choice of food. The controversy hit headlines, resulting in widespread debates on right and wrong. State governments made bizarre bans – giving the ban a communal angle and adding fuel to fire.

The entire ‘beef khao, beef mat khao‘ (eat beef, don’t eat beef) issue snowballed into a national debate, leading to of course no solution. This one too, I believe will live a long life.

5. All In The Name Of God – Ram Mandir Or No Ram Mandir

ayodhyaThis one is epic. Controversial, ironic in a way and fodder for political rivalry – the Ram Mandir debate is not seeing the end of the tunnel anytime soon. Right-wingers have time and again reinforced their will to ‘rebuild’ Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. With the current government in power, the momentum for the controversy has surely gathered momentum. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy was recently quoted as saying that the construction of the temple will begin towards the end of 2016.

One wonders what that land really wants – a mosque, a temple or just some peace. Only time will tell! For now, this one is here to stay.

6. The Curious Case Of Aarushi Talwar’s Murder

aarushi talwar2015 once again re-ignited the whole ‘whodunnit’ debate on the controversial 2008 Aarushi Talwar murder case. Avirook Sen’s book, ‘Aarushi‘ and Meghna Gulzar’s film ‘Talvar‘ once again brought to limelight discrepancies in the investigation done in the highly controversial case.

Innumerable theories, botched-up investigation with an ambiguity over what really happened has only left a sour taste.
For now, Rajesh Talwar and his wife, Nupur are in jail. I wonder will we ever find out what happened on that the night of 15-16 May of 2008. Till now, it just seems to be a mockery of justice.

7. Free Speech – Kya Kahein Kya Na Kahein?

Though new, this one managed to make headlines all through 2015. For me, the whole intolerance debate seemed to have missed the core point. While Shah Rukh Khan was advised to go to Pakistan, Aamir Khan was shunned for his comments and asked to leave the country with his family.

The Indian censor board also scripted history in 2015 with its bizarre policies. While a ‘Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3’ is allowed to openly proclaim itself as a ‘porn film’, poor James Bond fights it hard to kiss on Indian screens. (No prize for guessing which would have been shot better).

One wonders why nothing happens to the venomous tongues of leaders like Kailash Vijayvargiya and Prachi Sadhvi, who give the word ‘speech’ a bad name.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sudeshna

    Agreed. I hope rape laws are enforced and applied diligently.
    You should have posted about the increasing atheism in the country and how it should be legalised.
    Lgbt should and must be legalised as well. Wonderful reasoning on your part

  2. Ramandeep

    No dought India ,since indpence had great history of conterversies but now with time this sphere is almost change ,pol leader s day by day invent heavy weight word like”intolerance”,”thulla”.now keep calm and think ,what can we expect from our representator.

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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.

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 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.

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 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
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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