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Does Accepting Everything The Govt. Says The Only Way To Prove My Patriotism?

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By Naomi Hazarika:

A demonstrator waves Indian national flag as she takes part in a protest demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union leader accused of sedition, in New Delhi, India, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX27J7O
Image Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

It is ironic that right now, instead of writing this piece, I should be studying the principles of justice enunciated by Rawls, Sen, and the likes for my mid-semester exams. How can I focus on justice when my University is under siege? What is unjust is the way the media has been portraying the University. What is unjust is the way distinguished scholars and professors were brutally assaulted by goons in the house of justice and especially, the way the police stood there as silent spectators of the kind of brute force that has come to be the favorite tool of the authorities when it comes to dealing with dissent.

Right about now, half of the people reading this would have termed me as an ‘anti-national’. To counter that, let me make it perfectly clear that I am a responsible citizen coming from a family where 50% of the members are currently serving or have been in the armed forces – none of which should be a part of this debate and I will tell you why.

Nationalism demands us to be an enlightened and reasonable citizenry that believes in democracy and a nation that upholds democratic ideals. Democratic ideals necessarily constitute the notion of counter-narratives, disagreement, dialogue and most importantly, dissent. The reason why dissent is important is because it hinders the tendency of the opinion of the majority to take a totalitarian and authoritative tone. This is what makes a democracy radically different from a dictatorship. We allow dissent to flourish, we allow differences to exist. It makes us a better informed and balanced citizenry looking out for all its members instead just a few.

More importantly, however, not only is dissent being dismissed as being unlawful in this case, the way in which the hegemonic ideology of the ruling party is being exercised is to clearly bully any organised critique or school of criticism out of their way. The attempt is to establish a discourse wherein there is only one dominant way of thinking – theirs. The repercussions of such an approach are abundant – the ‘othering’ of Dalits, women, members of the LGBTQIA community and so on. The hegemonic effect on the idea of person-hood that pushing an ideology on the population has, is quite evident. Not only is this regressive, it is also very irresponsible.

Today there exist two Indias – one where people are swayed by biased media reports and more importantly, can be manipulated to think that their nation’s prestige is at stake, and the other, where people assume that they are free to voice their dissent against anything they want to. Sadly, these two versions of the same populace are in conflict with each other. Neither should we be swayed by popular media nor should we be assuming that, under this regime in particular, we have actual freedom of speech.

As I write this, our Central Library website has been hacked by unknown persons and is now showing a threat to eliminate Afzal Guru supporters. As students, the library is our place of worship. They have tried to hit us where it hurts the most. Education is under siege, free thought is under attack and the people who have realised this, sadly, are a minuscule minority. The student community condemns the anti-India slogans that were used during the event but we will not give up our right to voice our dissent as long as it is ‘anti-establishment’ and not ‘anti-country’.

None of us want to be any less of the patriots that we already are. The fact that I have to state this is unfortunate. Although, as students of a progressive, democratic and forward-thinking university, we will fight for our right to voice our opinions, especially if it is dissent because that is what facilitates inculcating a true democratic spirit and that is what this country was built on.

We are taught to question, we are taught to doubt and look at the whole picture while forming our opinions. If you restrict this free flow of education, what will effectively happen is that people will be blinded by this mediocre majority opinion without questioning at all. People will stop thinking about the degree of political alienation of the Kashmiri youth, they will not put themselves in their position, having lost scores of family members to AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), and then gauge the level of faith they would have in the state machinery. They will stop being inquisitive. They will become exactly what they have managed to become now – a mere majority dictated mob.

Frankly, right now, I don’t know whom to be angry at.

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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.

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.

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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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