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DU’s Reaction To The JNU Row Made Me Question If It Really Supports Free Thinking

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By Shrishti Kedia:

How did we envision college when we were small? As a place for grown ups. A place which we thought was meant for all the ‘cool’ stuff. A fairyland for some of us, while being a dreadful place for the rest.  College is supposed to be a space which  brings out free minded people who are equipped with a seamless horizon and a dynamic point of view.So, the question is, has it done anything like that for me?

I am currently in my 3rd year of college, pursuing BCom at Satyawati College. The feeling, to say the least, is surreal; given the pace at which time moves forward and the energy it consumes. My first day on this campus is still fresh in my mind. I can clearly remember my disappointment for not getting through any on-campus college. The feeling resulted in a repulsive feeling  for my own college. I only saw it as a mere opportunity to get into Delhi University (Delhi University) and I dishearteningly took it. Who doesn’t want to be in DU? I took the opportunity because I assumed DU would bring out a wiser, better and  a more refined individual in me. I thought it was different. I chose it because I thought it would help me gain a wider perspective in life. But I wonder today, is Delhi University any of this? Is it any different from any other university across the country? Does the brand name ace the trick for DU? Frankly, the question that one needs to ask is, does it do what a university is supposed to do? Well, in my opinion, it doesn’t. I feel it’s not any different from other universities across India.

I know it sounds strange, given that Delhi University is considered ‘the place to be’ and is often seen as the ultimate place to nurture deliberations and discussions in all forms as well as a natural haven for all ‘intellectuals’ – at least that’s what I thought when I chose to come here. But, the cult status is far from reality – which I came to realise through my experience during the Jawaharlal Nehru University row. A case of ‘sedition’ as they say it – or a case of mere ‘dissent’ if you ask me. Everyone had their own points of view during the whole event and so did I. Isn’t everyone free to have their own opinions at the end of the day? But as soon as the discussions took place, people of any opinion, with the exception of the ‘nationalists’ were attacked. My opinions were attacked too. I distinctly remember discussing it with my parents and teachers and being tagged as a ‘deshdrohi.’ My parents’ in fact told me that I was a child and that I was being influenced by others around me. They refused to accept the fact that I had actually read about the whole thing and taken a stand because of course, you can’t expect your daughter to be against ‘National Integration.’

My teachers were disappointed after hearing my point of view too. In their words, they couldn’t believe that a student under their tutelage could take a path, which in their mind, was not only wrong but also against the nation. One of my teachers even persuaded me to rethink about the opinions I had formulated and tried to explain to me otherwise. She went to the extent of pointing how Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were terrorists – and further made an argument comparing terrorism to prostitution. This is like juxtaposing apples against oranges to justify a point at any cost. Despite her constant overbearing, I stuck to my point. This fuelled her anger and she grew extremely temperamental. Eventually, I lost a teacher, whom I had revered for the longest time.

The change was inevitable – it hurt me, but I was glad I did not  succumb to the opinion of elders.  I knew what I was talking about and could take anyone head on. I wasn’t surprised when I had an argument with someone or the other about it almost every day.  Sometimes in the metro, at a friend’s house or in college. The only thing that disappointed me was that people had such views in the campus I was studying in. It was the same campus which I had assumed to be different. It was the same university which was supposed to help me gain a “wider perspective” and bring out a “wiser” and “better” form of myself. Within a week’s time, I had gone from being a good citizen to a “deshdrohi” in the same place.

This whole experience brings me to the question I had in mind earlier – Is Delhi University doing what it’s supposed to do? The need to reflect upon this question becomes even stronger  Or for that matter, is any university doing what it is supposed to? Are they facilitating the creation of free and independent thinking individuals or are they creating institutionalised minds? In my opinion, a university  should provide the space for cultivating minds who are free to form their own opinions. Minds which are capable of not only seeing two sides of the story but looking into it, without  following the herd. The fact that it forces the dominant voice on an individual, especially on a fresh brain, not only displays a regressive superiority but clearly, doesn’t provide a conducive environment for healthy discussions and opinionated individuals. The last thing it should do is  curb one’s ability to take decisions. These thoughts creeping in are itself an indicator of something being amiss.

It is then that I asked myself, is this how it should work? Is this the way a university should be?

I have thankfully found my answer, and now I would want you to find yours. But the important point to remember is that one should not give up. Despite the many flaws of the system, one needs to have patience and perseverance to change the course and not debunk it completely. All we need is a little faith, and then we shall see how mountains can be moved and routes can be altered.


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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.

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.

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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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