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What’s The Point Of A Govt. When AFSPA And War Crimes Still Continue In Kashmir?

By Rahul Tumma:

What is the relevance of a war? Doesn’t it seem absurd? Every recognizable country has a government with a set of rules to govern us, written by some individuals, who claimed to represent us all in history at one point of time or another.

Kingdoms waged wars on other kingdoms to grab their land, resources and everything owned by kings and whatever came under their jurisdiction. Now, empires, even though a few exist today, transitioned from kingdoms ruling their subjects to governments again ruling their subjects. So what has changed from the atrocities committed in wars then and now? I say, nothing.

That should make us question what the relevance of governments are, if they can’t stay out of each other’s business? That should lead us to Jammu and Kashmir, as the prime example – a child state tormented between two nations and governments, where innocents and civilians become victims of wars from both the Indian Army and Pakistan’s ISI and their trained mercenaries.

A law passed called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which most of the the general populace seem not to be aware about until Irom Sharmila came into light again, who is probably undertook the greatest and the longest fasting unto death to get AFSPA repealed in the North East. She broke her fast recently and decided to run for office to remove AFSPA. We can only imagine the scores of victims who have mercilessly suffered between the armies, mercenaries and AFSPA.

I cannot digest the fact that those in uniform who are supposed to protect the people of their country, rape and kill them instead, in the name of defending the country from its foreign enemies. There cannot be more of a grave injustice than this. Of course, we all know what the politician class is made of, but this is outrageous and unacceptable and must be severely punished by law against the perpetrators of these crimes, who wear the uniforms and do these heinous crimes.

What is frightening is that we can fight terrorists without uniform and die trying, but we are not afforded the right to protest and oppose anyone in uniform, irrespective of whether or not he commits a crime in AFSPA-ruled states. That is insane.

Does anybody have the exact statistics of how many people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir just because they protested their right to live in peace. What can anyone do, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), when every terrorist threatens to rape and kill the inhabitants of an area, if they don’t provide shelter and food to them? What can be worse if the Army resorts to the same sexual violence and killings on these helpless innocent families, who are held hostage by terrorists on all sides?

But today, it’s unbelievable that small children and youth are wounded for life due to the usage of pellet guns, causing severe injuries to eyes.

What is it that distinguishes a terrorist from a man in uniform or what is it that differentiates a terrorist from a terrorist in uniform? The difference separating them is getting thinner and thinner.

The first step to solve a problem is recognising and acknowledging that there is a problem, however harsh the reality is and we should not run away and turn a blind eye to that problem because this society cannot thrive and be completely safe with peace until we feel the same pain as those who are unrelated to us and yet suffer for no crime of their own doing.

This is the harsh reality and Burhan Wani is one such manifestation of that reality among thousands of others, whom we don’t know. He must have definitely thought he is fighting to liberate the people of Kashmir from the Indian Armed Forces and AFSPA, or why would he want to become a militant?

You apparently have the freedom to think and express yourselves, as per the Indian constitution but that freedom is clearly limited with so many sedition charges against various personalities and organisations for voicing their opinions, for reasons they thought were correct. We cannot tell a person how to think and teach them what is correct or wrong, but we can definitely engage in a discussion and voice our perspectives on it.

When we can’t delete one single line in an absurd law of a constitution, formed by few individuals, enforced with paper agreements from imperial and colonial empires, that looted, raped and made people kill each other in the longest running war in the last century then I can’t tell what democracy and government is all about.

There is no universal definition and world wide acceptance of a single definition of ‘terrorism’. When we don’t even have a single definition for terrorism, on what basis do governments wage wars and kill innocents and make them homeless, orphaned victims in the name of wars against terrorism. The Jammu and Kashmir problem can’t even be properly defined, because it’s so complicated, where after being granted independence, it had to form a pact with the Indian government to be merged with India.

My question is simple. What would you all do if official government designated Indian/Pakistani Armed forces injure, rape and kill a larger populace of a state in the name of patriotism just like militants and terrorists have been doing for many decades against everyone who opposes them.

Should the wars continue or should they be settled with dialogue? Should disputed areas form new countries just like how the British divided us into India and Pakistan with signed agreements and form constitutions that legally bind everyone not to harm each other?

You Decide.

This article was originally published on the author’s personal blog.

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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.

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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
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.

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