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Did The Surgical Strikes Harm India More Than Pakistan?

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By Vivashwan Singh:

The death of 19 soldiers in an attack by militants in Uri on September 18 resulted in a huge public outrage. After the Uri attack, large sections of the media filled the minds of the people with so much hatred that many on social media wanted to wage a nuclear war with Pakistan. But no one bothered to think about the damage that it could cause to India. Narendra Modi claimed that he was ready to wage war against Pakistan, but on the parameters of literacy, hunger, employment and poverty.

On September 29, Vikas Swarup, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs along with Director General of Miltary Operations Ranbir Singh held a press conference in which they claimed that the Indian army conducted ‘surgical strikes’ along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Pakistan rubbished this claim and said that no surgical strikes took place. According to Pakistan, the incident was nothing but a cross-border firing in which Pakistan lost two of its soldiers but also gave a befitting reply to Indian soldiers.

Large sections of the media claimed that our soldiers entered Pakistani territory while the DGMO in his statement only mentioned that the army conducted surgical strikes along the LoC. Secondly, we were told that our soldiers reached LoC with the help of choppers, but within 24 hours, Rajyavardhan Rathore, an ex-army man and present I&B minister said that helicopters were not used. The United Nations said that UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan had not observed any “firing across the Line of Control.” 

The ‘surgical strikes’ on September 29 have affected the social fabric of our nation to a great extent. There must be millions amongst us who are still uncertain about this operation but are afraid to question it. I don’t think anyone would take the risk of being labelled as a traitor to the country or the army.

When we do a critical analysis of such incidents, we realise that we’ve lost the sense of reasoning. On BJP posters during Dussehra, Modi was portrayed as Lord Ram. This is a blatant politicisation of the ‘surgical strikes’. When I was a kid, I used to go with my grandfather to the nearby ground to watch the effigy of Ravan burn. I would have never thought then that politics would get involved in religion so much that people would portray the Prime minister as god and would want to burn effigies of opposition leaders. We are becoming more dogmatic each day under the current government.

The most shameful thing is that politics is being played over the lives of our soldiers. Our Defence Minister said that the Indian army realised its powers only when the BJP came to power. Did Manohar Parrikar mean that those who fought during the wars of 1947, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 had no courage and capabilities? Did they not deserve any credit?

It seems that the sole aim of the BJP is to build a myth of invincibility around Narendra Modi. The whole party is in turmoil due to BJP’s decision to create a cult of personality around Modi.  BJP leaders had guaranteed that the armed forces would get the entire credit for the ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of Control (LoC). Modi had guaranteed that the issue would not be politicised.  Then came another announcement from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar where he gave a huge amount of credit to the Prime Minister. This is the best example of how BJP changed the narrative.

It would be absurd to believe that all these things are happening without the Prime Minister’s knowledge. Under the shield of ‘surgical strikes’, BJP is hoping to win the upcoming UP elections and at the same time trying to make sure that AAP does not come to power in either Punjab or Gujarat. If the surgical strikes indeed did take place, the majority of credit goes to the army. Manohar Parrikar was wrong on his part when he said that no such strikes took place in the past. Former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon explained how covert operations were meant to reduce infiltration and ceasefire violations. He said that it was “not to manage public opinion at home.” Mr Menon’s comment is very useful in understanding the issue because BJP had other plans. They made everything public so it eventually contributes to Narendra Modi being compared to Lord Ram. Modi was compared to Lord Ram and the army to Hanuman by Parrikar and other BJP leaders. It was hypocritical as the Prime Minister had specifically promised the opposition leaders that he would not score political brownie points with it. But the actions of his own ministers are exactly the opposite.

This is the kind of politics that Narendra Modi has built his career on. Intolerance has reached a new height now. Dissent and questioning, the two fundamentals of any democracy are being suppressed in the name of nationalism. An atmosphere is being created where common people are being radically transformed in the name of nationalism. Masses are led to believe that those being sceptical of the government’s surgical strikes are traitors. The ruling Hindu-right wing government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not approve of any debate on this issue. The so-called ‘patriotic’ journalists have become willing allies of the government. The country has been polarised to a large degree. They argue that they are doing this to safeguard the national interest. Is it in the national interest to put restrictions on liberal and secular voices? Is it in the national interest to create a war hysteria in one’s own country? Is it in the national interest to have a media which promotes intolerance and extremist views?

It’s a war against liberty and secularism of India. It is an attack on the voices of sanity and a very well deliberated attempt to silence the voices of dissent against the present government. Moreover, it is a political stunt to divert the attention of the people from the current social, economic and cultural problems that plague the nation today.

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Image Source: Hindustan Times/ Getty Images
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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.

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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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