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‘Get Home, They’re Burning Buses On The Street’: A Bengaluru Student On The City’s Chaos

By Vinay Kumar:

“Class! Before I start, there is a breakout of violence and outrage over the Cauvery issue, again. So don’t loiter after class, get home quickly” said the teacher right after she walked in after a two hour long break. Her phone starts vibrating, a bunch of phones in class starting spasming and the teacher says that there is no point walking out if everyone has to take calls. She instructs everyone to do it inside and then she’ll start in ten minutes.

My phone vibrates. “Vini, where are you? Get home. They stripped some Kannadiga in Tamil Nadu and beat him up. They are burning buses and tyres on the street. On the news, they just declared holidays for schools and colleges, so they should let you all go from college any minute now.” And then my cousin hangs up on me.

The classroom is as noisy as a fish market and there were way too many parallel conversations that the teacher didn’t want to stop because everybody’s parents, including her own kept calling even though she kept cutting their calls. She gave in and texted. “Guys, take a sheet of paper and in 350 words, write about Gender stereotypes in the Indian context. All of you are too distracted to pay attention to any new teaching.”

Well a teacher had to engage the class somehow but even before sheets of paper were torn and pens uncapped, conversation on buses, cars and tyres being set on fire circulated. And worries of getting home without public transport induced anxiety among a class of 40 students and something that resonated in the college of 4,200 students.

Just then, Meshak, the vice-principal’s assistant, peeps through the new glass peep window on the door to ask the teacher to step out. “You can all go home” and the class erupted into screams, for another day, this semester was gone with the wind.

An ocean of students got out of the college gates onto the narrow main road to the already traffic-clogged road and makes one wonder how well we’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse. We’re not. So, maybe that might be motivation to exercise but not for building better, planned and commutable roads. I drove to drop a friend at the metro that we’d discover was closed, while two other boys in class practised their Malayalam because their heavy accent in Kannada gave away that they were Tamilians. We waited for a good ten minutes near the auto stand at the metro before finding an auto to K R Puram, which is a miracle on a regular day in Bengaluru, let alone a day of chaos and violence.

Four missed calls on my phone; my cousin called to check on me and told me the rise in number of incidents. The other three were from a friend who told me about a Bengali teacher who lived in my neighbourhood and was unable to find cabs or autos to get home. I called her and we went homeward once I got back to college from the Metro. The teacher was carrying a Karnataka flag similar to a lot of Tamil-owned stores that used the flag as a shield to dodge attacks, stone pelting, fire and wreckage in general. I dropped her and got home to respond to a bunch of texts and calls asking if I was home and in one piece.

On WhatsApp, the messages of the Bengaluru traffic police denying implementation of Section 144 in the city and going back on that an hour later, were circulated. Images of burning cars, tyres and lorries filled my WhatsApp messages and Facebook news feed. A fellow who I had known shared selfies with tyres ablaze in the background and a caption ‘Save Cavery’. WhatsApp conversations filled me in on the property destruction of Adayar Ananda Bhavan (a Tamil restaurant chain) outlets, Kalanikethan among others and all stores with Ramraj on their walls stuck a Karnataka flag to avoid a mess. My liberal, socially conscious friends were very upset that Adigas food chain had offered free coffee to all members of associations fighting for Cauvery.

Jokes by Malayalis on Twitter took everyone into a small sense of safety. Humour and continuous efforts are present on the internet that hopefully challenges all the voices that put hatred out to get one another.

More updates on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp helped find out if everyone we knew got home and a lot of help was made available via Twitter. Various Bengalureans on Twitter offered shelter, food and water to anyone who needed it. You could see people in their own words fighting for Cauvery and many others trying to see if everybody got home in one piece and offering help if anyone got stuck somewhere. This was the same city that went berserk over “Kabali” weeks ago and now setting fire to posters of the same.

The noise on Kannada news channels had become louder after 6 pm when compared to the streets but the city had gone to a standstill. More hatred is being spewed on social media, but more messages asking everyone to hold their horses and not spread hatred but love, help Bengaluru restore. The news available on mainstream sources, without surprise, were sensationalised but alternative sources of news and online platforms along with Bengaluru Traffic police’s social presence help contain and manage the situation. But there was still a fatality and young men on the streets trying to keep Cauvery home.

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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.

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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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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.”

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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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