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Unfortunately, There’s Now A Simpler Way To Prove Your ‘Nationalism’

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By Shaista Nazir:

certification_for_nationalismSince the past few weeks, I have been watching closely the debate over ‘anti-national’ acts, so I began to ponder over what it means to be a nationalistic, patriotic Indian.

Well, for me, it should have meant to love your country so much that you want it to be on the path of development and making sure that people from all walks of life have a stake in it. It should have meant that all those who claim to be the ‘Desh-bhakts’ should strive for making India a land of diversity, pluralism and inclusiveness. It should have meant that people inculcate a scientific temper and a spirit of humanism (Well, it is a fundamental duty, they ought to do it otherwise it would amount to disrespecting the Constitution by not following the ideals incorporated in it). It should have meant that we should have turned India into a nation where no one is afraid to speak out his/her mind, where we have the freedom to differ and the freedom to choose. It should have meant that we as a nation should have respect for the struggle which our nation went through so that we always stand against injustice, oppression, tyranny and inequality.

We should respect the idea of India that the forefathers of our nation propagated. We should have collectively raised our voices whenever the constitutional rights of people were trampled upon. But, today the reality is that people who had no role in India’s freedom struggle, and had in many cases bowed down to the British, when the likes of Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev were being beaten up and sent behind bars or to the gallows, are today defining the criteria and setting the contours of what being ‘nationalist’ means. They are labelling anyone who doesn’t adhere to their jingoism as anti-national. The new so-called Desh-bhakts have developed a new definition of what being a patriotic and nationalistic Indian means. According to their definition, anyone who thinks, eats, prays and lives their lives according to the sayings of all saintly Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and their other sponsored organisations (BJP, ABVP, VHP etc.) is Indian – a nationalist and patriotic Indian.

There are presently three platforms from where we are to get our certificates of being in love with our country.

Firstly, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power at the Centre and which got a massive mandate from the people of India, who apparently never had their heads in the right place. They are turning a blind eye to all the atrocities committed against those who fail to identify themselves with their version of nationalism and patriotism. We didn’t hear them ever condemn those eulogising Nathuram Godse, the assassin of the father of the nation. We wonder at this selective outrage by the current dispensation. They have been silent and doing nothing to stop the attack on the fundamental freedoms that our Constitution ensures us all (The irony is that it was the democratic process that brought them to power. One disgruntled and without gratitude BJP is).

Secondly, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in the universities. Universities are meant to be a platform where we gain perspective and learn the power of ideas and democratic deliberation. It is in universities where we learn “the principles of engaging in a dialogue” (This definition of the purpose of a university was given by Dr. Manmohan Singh when he was welcomed with black flags in the JNU campus back in 2005). But the ABVP, with the sanction of BJP, are trying to attack this very platform. They are escalating tensions in different varsities, intimidating those students who disagree with them. One such incident is Rohith Vemula’s suicide case where ABVP with the backing of some men in power created quite a difficult and complicated situation for Rohith. Feeling helpless, Rohith succumbed to the pressure and eventually took the unfortunate step of committing suicide.

Third, television news anchors like Arnab Goswami of Times Now, Rohit Sardana of Zee News etc. who heckle, jeer and silence all those who disagree with them. They are sitting there to foist their own narrow idea of ‘being patriotic’ on everyone. They are attempting to stifle and shut down all democratic debate. Their way of steering the dialogue is a new low for the Indian media already infamous for their biased, jingoistic, inflammatory, and often propagandist coverage. They are not supposed to play the role of judge and jury. The way they linked Umar Khalid to some militant outfit and substantiated this claim of theirs by reiterating that he had been to Pakistan twice when in fact he hadn’t even applied for a passport, shows how low the media outlets can stoop for TRPs.

Now, it is up to all Indians to decide what kind of nationalism they want. The kind which allows lawyers to stoop to such lows that they heckle journalists, faculty members and students of JNU or the kind which permits all kinds of people be they Leftists, rightists, centrists, Ambedkarites, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians to live in harmony and make this country into what it was supposed to be – a secular, plural, diverse, inclusive and a classless and a casteless society.

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  1. Suresh Suresh

    nice article

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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