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Why I Find The Current Political Atmosphere ‘Unfavourable’ (But Students Give Me Hope)

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By Mohammad Arsalan:

Demonstrators pictured at a protest march in New Delhi, India, March 1, 2016. Dozens of protestors from Campus Front of India (CFI) protested to express solidarity for Rohit Vemula, a low-caste student of the University of Hyderabad who was found hanging at a hostel in January and were also demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union leader accused of sedition. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTS8QM0
Image credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

In this era, when job and education crises are at a peak, people are hardly able to think and analyse. It is indeed an unfavourable atmosphere which has taken shape in India since the coming of BJP to power in 2014. The RSS backed government has no doubt a huge and massive partisan nationwide. But it’s facing huge criticism over it’s Hindutva image from many sections of the country.

The JP Andolan (1975-77) in India was one phase in Independent India which produced many prominent leaders in our country including two Chief Ministers of Bihar. The Emergency era saw Indian politics take a dramatic turn, as several new parties emerged after it including the BJP. Many of them upheld ideas of socialism. It appeared that a revolution had taken place and the country that would take shape would be a modern, developed and powerful India. This also provided a platform to the RSS to highjack or perhaps make their own party so that they may get into politics.

CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says, “The Modi government is slowly trying to create an Emergency-like situation. They are trying to break the communal harmony of the country by pitching one religion against other and one community against another.” After around forty years since the Emergency, it may be argued that the country is facing the same crisis again.

BJP’s campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was indeed well organised. The Congress didn’t perform very well during its rule and like any other party was met with strong epithets in the whole country. The 2G scam, Coalgate scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, price hikes and so on played their part in soiling Congress’ image. Some may even claim that the silence of the then PM Manmohan Singh, or maybe the puerile candidature for the projected Congress Prime Minister were reasons for the loss. But popular slogans (like ‘Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi’, ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ etc.), polarisation politics, Hindu radicalisation and the Ram Mandir issue were used to defeat the Congress as well.

Narendra Modi took the opportunity to fill the leadership crisis by using beautiful slogans to win over poor people who saw him as a ray of hope. Words like ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’, ‘Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi’, were strong slogans which caught the imagination of young minds, farmers and the toiling poor of the country. The masses of the country saw a ray of hope.

After winning with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and forming a robust government, things did not turn out to be so positive. People started wondering whether the promised fifteen lakh rupees would be debited to their bank accounts. There were other issues as well such as the alleged unemployment among the youth, the beheading of an Indian soldier and so on which negatively affected the government’s image. When the government couldn’t manage that, it appears that some of their affiliates started creating new issues to make people forget the government’s false promises. There were several controversies like ‘Ghar wapsi’, ‘Love jihad’, asking people to go to Pakistan etc. When this didn’t work, the government backed by the RSS began, as some people feel, targeting Scheduled Caste people all over the country. Many public intellectuals returned their awards in protest against the ‘fascist’ tendencies of the ruling dispensation.

It was going well for the government until the suicide of HCU’s Dalit student Rohith Vemula. Some have called it an ‘institutional murder’. Rohith’s suicide in January 2016 led to massive criticism of the government, especially when letters of communication from HRD Minister Smriti Irani to HCU-VC Appa Rao and a local MP of Hyderabad were discovered. This led to huge outrage and mass protests all over the country. Students of prominent universities including AMU, JNU, AU etc. came out on the roads to protest.

Smriti Irani was already under fire from students leading the ‘Occupy UGC’ movement, who were protesting the scrapping of the non-NET fellowship that is granted to research scholars. In all these protests, JNU students played an active role. A couple of students including JNUSU president Kanahiya Kumar were arrested in connection with so-called ‘anti-national’ slogans being chanted. The government machinery tried all possible measures from physical violence to legal ways of suppression to subdue the students and break their resolve. But, that led to another debacle.

The sedition law that comes under Section 124A of the IPC, a legacy of our colonial past, is being used by our government today. It was used against the students. The law was introduced in the year 1870 under the British Raj to prevent Indians from going against the state. Victims of this law include Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and many other prominent freedom fighters. Now, at this juncture, it feels like we’re back in colonial times. Meanwhile, a foul debate in the country has started over who is a ‘nationalist’ or an ‘anti-national’.

It’s high time that we got rid of such laws which have no place in a democracy. In this era, when the world is busy making satellites, discovering previously unknown things about the universe and so on, such pointless debates seem like a travesty.

After the JNU row, the students’ movement has again risen to prominence and have caused a stir in the country. Young leaders are coming out from colleges and universities. The media seems to be coming back on the right track and civilians appear to be getting to know the reality. This shows that India is now combatting fascism and moving towards revolutionary change. Let’s hope that the new drift, unlike 1977, may bring out potential leaders who could fulfil the idea of India dreamt by Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah and all other prominent freedom fighters who suffered under the British and gave up their life for our freedom.

You must be to comment.
  1. Anwarul Hoda

    Since independence India is struggling severely with the issue of economic inequality, but this NDA government came up with the promise of not only economic justice but also raise great expectations among the entire population for the “ACHHE DIN”. But now what this government is serving, is the Pseudo nationalism and what other you mentioned. Inspite of doing development this government choose to provoke socio political unjust towards minorities and specially against the socio economic backward sections. And yes I agree with you in all these uncertainty, students and student politics is the hope. It was worth reading and we expect some more literature from you regarding student politics.

  2. Syed Nabi

    I have hugely impressed with your style and depth on the subject. The article has been well drafted, words beautifully chosen and pinned up with fine architecture. Live you Arsalan! Keep writing with openness devoid of any dogma or criticism. We have learnt to love the nation and live in peace with pluralistic society.

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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)’.

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.

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
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