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An Attack On Bangladeshi Hindus Is An Attack On The Idea Of Bangladesh

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By Myskin Kabir:

The idea of Bangladesh was enshrined upon the faith of secularism. When it was a part of Pakistan and known as East Pakistan, it was evident that our identity was not that of a Pakistani. Eventually, it was proven that we cannot be integrated with a nation state where our culture, language and way of life are not respected. To the Pakistani state, Bangladeshis were just part of a nation which was fairly poor, illiterate and culturally different.

Our identity is Bengali and majority of our people are Muslims. When we say we are Bengali, a history of proclivity towards Hinduism always represents our identity. We protested when the Pakistani authority accused us of using a language more related to Hindu culture. We didn’t let them take our language away from us. Our existence, breath, thoughts and feelings gyrate around us being Bengalis. We sacrificed our lives and established Bengali as our official language. It gained respect all across the world. The world celebrates International Mother language Day to show respect to our martyrs.

We didn’t suffer noiselessly. We fought hard to win our liberation from Pakistan and established an independent nation. One of the main reasons for us to get separated from Pakistan was because we didn’t want them to dominate over us. The idea was to live in a secular country. Hindus should get a country where they don’t have to suffer from the fear of the same treatment that most Bangladeshis received from the Pakistani army and state. We have been liberated, but are not entirely free from vices of the Pakistani state’s ideologies. A group of people still believe that if we were with Pakistan, we would have been in a good position on the issue of religion. Our neighbouring country India is being criticised by our countrymen whenever there is an attack on Muslim families in India. There are also Hindu families that are being attacked randomly in Muslim majority areas of Bangladesh.

What we lack as a nation is tolerance. Our country is growing economically and that has an impact worldwide. Being a small and densely populated country, it was very difficult for us to reach this far. It is a noteworthy achievement. With the advent of technology, most households of the country have access to modern facilities. But with advancement comes immaturity too. Not everyone uses the facilities available to us in a suitable manner. People misuse facilities and put controversial statements online. For such people, punishment should be a must. But there is a law to look after the issue. If you believe in your god, believe that the culprits will receive the due punishment. It is a more punishable offence to attack innocents. You cannot take away the possessions of people who do not have a role to play in making controversial statements. Their homes cannot be burned down and their god cannot be disrespected on an issue which could have been easily been solved with the help of the law enforcement authorities.

The attack on October 30 on the Hindu families in Brahmanbaria is the most recent and fresh wound in the series of attacks unleashed on the Hindu and other minority communities over the last few years. The Hindu families were attacked after someone had allegedly put a Facebook post, making fun of Masjid al-Haram, the holy site for Muslims. After the terrorist attack on July 1, the way law enforcement agencies were dealing with extremists and terrorist groups, we had started to believe that evil had been forced out of our backyard. But the hatred towards minorities is inbuilt in the thought process of the misled orthodox right wing politicians. This particular act of violence is condemnable. These kinds of attacks are uncalled for. The people who were involved in the attack should get a harsh punishment. The authorities should not only make sure that the main culprit who published the edited photo and insulted Islam be punished, but also the ones involved in the attack must get strict punishments.

A system of tolerance should establish the limitations of our activities. These attacks on minorities are not new. It’s been happening ever since the Pakistani state began its propaganda of attacking people from the minority community. If we take out time and do research, we will get to know how peacefully the Hindu and Muslim community had been living in Bengal. Almost everything is common amongst us, except religion. Our identity as a Bangladeshi comes first. Only after that does anything else matter. If we attack any Bangladeshi who is innocent, it’s an attack on the idea of Bangladesh. If we disrespect people of a particular community who are citizens of Bangladesh by law, we are disrespecting the diversity we share from time immemorial. I urge my readers to convey the message that Bangladesh is secular and it’s time to establish tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of any religious identity.

Featured Image Source: SAM Nasim/ Flickr
Banner Image Source: Nicolas Raymond/ Flickr
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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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