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Those Asking For War On Social Media Take Our Soldiers’ Lives For Granted

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By Nikhil Kumar:

The relationship between the two nation-states of India and Pakistan have deteriorated to a point where an inevitable and unprecedented conflict is on the cards. War-mongering has become ubiquitous on ‘social media’.

News presenters have left no stone unturned to twist facts to present a concoction of hate towards Pakistan. With former military personnel emotionally pleading to politicians for a war and flaunting demands for nuclear detonations in Pakistani territory, we seem to have outlived the romantic silence of peace.

The job of a soldier is like no other. The very enlistment into service foresees the ultimate reality of life: death; for the safety of strangers far way. But what I find the appalling is the apparent nonchalance and callousness with which the very same strangers, the protected, decide the fate of soldiers.

The vast majority who comment on social media trying to boost the narrative of an impending military conflict, take for granted the service of our army men. We don’t as much flinch when we charge those characters through the barrel of our keyboard sitting comfortably on our sofa.

It is, as if we, the taxpayers, who’d rather not enlist in military service hire other people, their salaries paid through the taxes we pay, to fight for us and risk their lives. And to be honest, most of these soldiers don’t come from affluent families that can afford the luxury to type in 140 characters to show their patriotism.

“A huge preponderant majority of us with no risk whatsoever of exposure to military service have, in effect, hired some of the least advantaged of our fellow countrymen to do some of the most dangerous business while the majority goes on with their own affairs unbloodied and undistracted.” –David M. Kennedy said in an American context that doesn’t seem far from being suitable in India.

Most privileged young people in India do not opt for military service. For most of us who actually have real options, the prospect of martyrdom isn’t enough of an incentive to serve the country. However, we use our assumed right over the lives of soldiers, to perpetuate a narrative that sends them into harm’s way. For this, we opt to enlist in a self-righteous commentary ‘service’, instead.

If unfettered love for India or unquestionable hatred for Pakistan is the sole criterion for patriotism, then why don’t these war-mongers serve in the Army? You’d say, the military has specific physical demands. Sure, but doesn’t the same patriotism that vomits hatred and urges war catalyse their senses to prepare themselves physically for the same martyrdom that they so carelessly talk about. Let alone actual enlistment into service; our Army recruitment centres should be brimming with a sea of ‘warriors’. Maybe that, the applying for service alone, would further decorate their plate of ‘medals’ and increase their patriotism which they so vehemently project on a daily basis.

This conflict would never have escalated if the children of policy makers, parliamentarians, political commentators and news presenters had to share the burden of fighting the wars they so desperately wish to perpetuate. I don’t expect more than a minuscule percentage of them to have a son or daughter serving in the military or have plans to enlist.

The fact that the most active-duty soldiers come from poor economic backgrounds makes it relatively easy for the government to commit the troops into conflict in the name of protecting a population that scarcely breaks a sweat in deliberation while tweeting.

The glorification of death in combat by the hyper-nationalist media with live telecasts of funerals has made the daily flow of coffins wrapped in national flags a common discourse.

What is left unnoticed is that not one funeral takes place in a posh housing society or a bungalow of an affluent family? Once these well-decorated government bungalows of politicians and posh apartments of media elites feel the crushing cries of death and scarcity of a loved one, the warmongering will begin to cease.

As long as Indians are sent into conflict, shouldn’t everyone be, at least theoretically, equally exposed to military recruitment and not just those in dire economic circumstances?

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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.

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.

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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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