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‘There Is No Wisdom In Calling For War And Fanning Hatred In Public Opinion’

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By Arnav Deshpande:

There is much anger in the air. Our hearts bleed for the men in uniform, who fell at the border in service to the nation. We stand united in sharing the grief of their families.

Retaliation was in order, and retaliation did happen. Two men on the opposite front fell to the bullets of our soldiers. They served their motherland with the same dedication and sentiment of sacrifice that decorated the men who fell in Uri. The families there wept the same tears that families here wept.

These are men, united in death, who never should have died. And one fears, many more would have died, if the unscrupulous trolls in politics, media and social media on both sides of the border, always had it their way.

TRP-hungry news anchors do not pay the price when a vitiated atmosphere, among the public, makes it too expensive for governments to show restraint. Jingoists galore, who issue calls to arm on their Facebook pages, warming their armchairs over cups of tea, do not pay the price when a 22-year-old soldier falls at the border.

Nationalism is that dirty sentiment of superiority, which drives people out of all rational bounds. It makes them place their sense of ‘national pride’ above humanity and reason. It is a sentiment born out of the deepest of self-centered fancies of human beings, which convinces them that their political identity is the best, better than all other political identities – to prove which, they want revenge, battle and bloodshed. They want their nationalist pleasures to be served by the men at the border, the pawns in the game of nationalist politics.

That is what geo-politics and chauvinism make out of the men at the border, who put their lives in line to defend the state: pawns. What did the two Pakistani jawans have to do with the deep state of Pakistan, and its violent conspiracies hatched alongside the scourge of terror? They believed the nationalists who commanded them – politicians, army generals – and stood to die. What wrong had the men in Uri committed to have earned the alleged wrath of the Pakistani establishment?

There is no happiness in death. There is only pain – pain accompanied by broken dreams, broken hopes and broken people. There is only death in war.

War is not initiated out of choice. War breaks out when every alternative has failed, and war is the only choice on the table. Further, war doesn’t bring any solutions – it only places a lid onto the nationalism of the vanquished, until it simmers and boils to break out once more. There is no wisdom in calling for war and fanning hatred in public opinion, in the sanctity of the newsroom or the bedroom.

When social media trolls call for war, they feel a great sense of pride with the ‘Bharat Mata’ brand of nationalist adrenaline flushing their respective systems. It is a convoluted sense of power and feeling of strength that they want to experience. Power does excite amazement and inspiration. Amartya Sen’s description evaluates these aspects of power beautifully in his “Argumentative Indian.” Power does attract awe. But seldom do her beholders see the destruction and grief power can cause, or the inhumanity that her exercise can exemplify. Seldom do they see how repulsive power is, how ruthless and merciless in her manifestation.

The want for power comes together with nationalism and anger, to produce a dangerous mix – human beings stop feeling the fundamental characteristic of ‘humanness’ that binds us all, beyond and regardless of the political divides imposed by history and the manipulative designs engineered by politicians and non-state elements.

Political identities assume paramount importance when irrational nationalist bravado mixes with politicians ready to exploit every opportunity for political relevance. The waning Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) decides to work in service to their nation, and the closest they come to a Pakistani is when they threaten to harm unarmed, innocent actors.

India and Pakistan share variants of the same culture. Most unfortunately, the MNS cannot change that, the same way it cannot seek to define a Marathi culture minus Bihari rickshawalas, or UP sabjiwalas. The cultural exchange between the geographies that are now called these names has been abundant. It is only just recently, in the larger scheme of things, that these geographies have been politically defined. This political definition has subsumed all identities that so many Indians and Pakistanis share – connoisseurs of classical music, lovers of biryani, speaking variants of the same language, having the same cultural set-up. It has subsumed all areas of commonality that both need to work on – poverty, deficient healthcare, corruption, a dysfunctional public education system.

Talk of enmity and nationalist venom sacrifices numerous shared identities at the altar of a sole divergent political identity. We refuse to accept that states can be bad but people can’t. Our anger and fury needs to be directed towards the deep state of Pakistan, and the destructive designs of their army-politician nexus that subjects their citizens to propaganda and falsification – not towards the people. The average Pakistani is no different to the average Indian – they forget to distinguish between the State and the people of India. Indians call for throwing out Pakistani actors, who never donned the political identity of Pakistanis in the first place, but that of struggling actors eager to please. Nationalists impose upon them a political identity they never represented, but dare not overtly defy thanks to the nationalism of their compatriots across the border.

How can one single political identity obscure all other identities of a collection of individuals? How can humanity call for death and destruction to humanity? The answer lies in that monolithic, all-important, ever-prevailing, ever-correct abstraction that people make out of the nation.

Pakistan is the sad end that defying democracy brings. A State that submits to the military apparatus, a warring State that heeds its primitive impulses than sound policy, a State that has failed its people. In its struggle for parity with a much larger neighbour, it has armed itself with nuclear power – with willingness by policy to engage in first use. If these were to be exercised, the destruction of both our countries would be to astronomical levels. This though, is a very instrumental argument – there are better reasons for us as people to assimilate, as I have ventured to discuss above, than merely for the sake of managing to exist.

Beyond the veil of nationalism and unreason lie so many identities that deserve celebration. Beyond the monotonic newsroom abuse, there lie so many reasons to detest hatred. Beyond the diplomatic and political hurdles, there lie people – human beings, with the same sentiments and feelings. War would bring wounds that would for a significantly long time scar all those elements that lie beyond the hate, the bloodlust that nationalists would have us feel. If we were indeed to reach the doorstep of war, that would not be a development to celebrate. It would be a shameful failure of our diplomatic and political abilities. Beyond that, it would be the choice of brutality over humanity – a ruthless choice both sides would make. The choice of anything over humanity is not a choice to celebrate.

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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.

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 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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