This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Daniel Nowaj Majumder. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Those Who Deny Me My Constitutional Rights Are Anti-National’

By Daniel Nowaj Majumder:

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 - RTX27J90
Image credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

What is nationalism for the Left?

This is a question taken up in a series of books and essays in political science. I harbour considerably leftist views, especially progressive socially and a centrist with respect to the economy. So in a bid to explain this oft-asked question from the ‘right’, I strive to answer this question from my point of view.

I personally tend to view my nationalism through the lens of the Indian National Freedom Movement and its leaders. Even among them, we had different brands of nationalism. The Gandhian brand of nationalism, the Jinnah brand, the Savarkar brand etc. I personally subscribe to the Gandhian brand because his principles seem to agree with mine the most.

The Gandhian Brand Of Nationalism

Gandhi, despite his libertarian leanings on issues of governance, was, by and large, a classical liberal, who was more patriotic than nationalist in the contemporary sense of the words. He realised that his country, or the idea of a country he helped realise, was not already the best but had the potential to be the best. So he set about bringing a social revolution by taking on the issues of the freedom and equality among individuals (movement against untouchability, for the emancipation of women, against child marriage), freedom of speech and press and the libertarian movement for Gram Swaraj. Like him, I understand that our country has the potential to become the best, but we aren’t there yet. We need to absorb the best from the other systems we come across and take pride in our history, with a view to working towards a desirable future, letting go of the shackles of the past.

So, in a day and age when a progressive leader like Shashi Tharoor gets laughed out of the House for a bill that serves to replace our own laughing stock of a law that is Section 377 of the IPC, the leftist in me stirs up a rage at the public display of anti-nationalism. I question the morality of the legislators and their intentions at keeping a marginalised section of our society away from their constitutional rights.

The leftist in me plays the smallest violin in the world when religious clerics drive up hysteria over communal politics, only to never budge from their stance on Muslim Personal Law to the detriment of the Muslim society and the suppression of women in that community. This is what I consider anti-national.

And besides the Gandhian brand of nationalism, certain alter egos in my leftist persona seem to come alive time and again:

The Labour Protectionist’s Nationalism

The left has traditionally always been represented by the CPI(M), which has led to an association of all leftist ideology with the party in India. But they are only one part of the political spectrum on the left. To be frank, we haven’t had an openly, truly left of centre party in our political sphere. But whatever be the party that tries to occupy this niche, one must understand that such a party should view nationalism as an effort to better the means and livelihood of the middle-class workers and lower class daily wage earners in India. That is the truest metric for leftists to judge the success of their policy.

The leftist in me seeks to ensure that the cries of the ‘proletariat’ do not go unheard. For in my eyes, it is a disservice to the nation when it’s citizens go hungry and die in the open due to illness and famine when those in power seek to further consolidate it among themselves. That is what I consider anti-national and undemocratic.

The Free Speech Activist’s Nationalism

On the issue of Freedom of Speech, I am no anarchist. I wish to exercise my freedom of rights under Article 19A of our Constitution because I trust the foresight of our leaders and constitutional experts when they drafted this great piece of work. Under that section, one would assume the line ‘Bharat ki barbaadi tak jung rahegi’ would be banned for protecting the security and integrity of the state. Hence, I opposed this speech in all discussions about the Jawaharlal Nehru University incident.

But the government did little to assuage the concerns of the neutral Indian spectator as it went on to arrest Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNU Students’ Union, who incidentally, was cleared of all charges of ‘anti-national’ sloganeering by the Intelligence Bureau, and let the actual Kashmiri sloganeers go unscathed. That too with the arrest based on a law that was never applicable here in the first place (with the precedent set by the Kedarnath vs The State of Bihar judgement of the Supreme Court, 1962).

Having said that, I myself am a fierce free speech protectionist. Which means I was pissed off when the idiotic mullahs got their way and practically banned Salman Rushdie from India and our HRD minister (one you would expect to be progressive given her station) was offended at some random student’s use of imagery to express his views. I want ‘hate speech’ to be protected under the constitution, which it currently prosecutes under our ‘Blasphemy Laws’, the same law that served as the excuse for putting the girl who put out a Facebook post complaining about the traffic on the death of a leader in Mumbai behind bars. And I am pissed off that people assume that I can’t be nationalist or a patriot, and at the same time be a free speech protectionist.

Yes, I can.

The constitution gives me the right to do so. And the person that denies me my constitutional right should instead be deemed an anti-national and an enemy of the State.

Yet, after deep musings, I have also come to realise it wouldn’t be so pragmatic to have absolute free speech laws after all. A case only strengthened by the abysmal data on education in our country, which makes it all the more easy to misinform people and incite people to act violently. So, the only case where I think Free Speech should be withheld in India is when it poses a threat to the security and integrity of the state in a manner so as to cause physical violence or instigate an armed rebellion against the government. Freedom of Speech can exist only so long as the State that protects it exists. Allegedly hurt religious and jingoistic sentiments, unlike the situation as it stands now, should not serve as the cause for restriction of free speech, ever.

To quote Orwell,

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

You must be to comment.

More from Daniel Nowaj Majumder

Similar Posts

By Jagisha Arora

By Shrsti Tiwari

By Anwesa

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below