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Rewind 2016: What Did Kashmir Achieve?

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The calm demeanour of the summer in Kashmir was already experiencing low-intensity tides due to the government’s efforts to hamper peace by bringing up controversial issues like Sainik or Pandit colonies which they knew would evoke an abrupt and rash reaction from the people.

The PDP was already being criticised for committing a political blunder for the second time by choosing to ally with the BJP. The unholy alliance as it is called had already raised temperatures in Kashmir, and the Mehbooba Mufti government was still reluctant to push back its initiatives which were aimed at further weakening the already bruised autonomy status of Jammu and Kashmir. The tide was still feeble, and the people were not that up-in-arms against the policies of the government, but there was a feeling that the situation was as fragile as it could be.

South Kashmir had already become the hotbed of militancy since Burhan Wani took over as commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. The huge rush of people that were seen attending the funerals of the militants that were killed in several encounters before the Burhan Wani episode happened had already raised alarm bells in the political circles of New Delhi. The reason being pretty obvious, New Delhi didn’t wish to witness a repeat of the ’90s era, but New Delhi has a habit of taking things to such extent that there is no way out later on. The time to reset things back was over. Burhan Wani was not just a 10-letter name, it had become a phenomenon.

Date: July 8, 2016 Time: 6:30-8:00

Breaking News: Burhan Wani, the poster boy of militancy in Kashmir, was dead. This news spread like wildfire throughout the valley and then consequently slogans in awe of Burhan resonated throughout the valley. The Mehbooba Mufti government was anticipating the response to be to a certain extent but what it had to witness the next day when Burhan was laid to rest was unprecedented. Burhan’s funeral had a mammoth gathering of over 100,000 people. Burhan Wani had set the tone for a mass uprising, but the question that struck immediately in everyone’s mind was who would lead the rebellion?

Hurriyat Finds Opportunity

The different factions of Hurriyat have always had their share of differences. They had come together under the banner of All Parties Hurriyat Conference somewhere back in 2000 and then split again but the Hurriyat, which enjoys more support than the civilian government in Kashmir was finding its space shrinking in the recent years. The people were literally fed-up with the old tactics of ‘hartals’ and ‘chalos‘ of the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat found an opportunity to take control of the uprising and lead what many thought would be a leaderless agitation.

The reaction to Burhan’s killing was spontaneous. The Hurriyat did announce a three-day shutdown on the day of Burhan’s killing itself, but that would have been the case even if Hurriyat would not have entered the scene. The Hurriyat continued with its hartal-chalo policy for five long months and the people duly obliged with whatever the join resistance leadership mentioned in their weekly protest calendars.

Kashmir Issue Finds A Global Mention Again

The Kashmir issue found a global mention again after being sidelined for almost six years. New Delhi had managed to convince the world that the people of Kashmir are finding their space within the boundaries of the Indian constitution, but the Burhan aftermath again reminded the world that the Kashmir issue is still as alive as it was seven decades ago.

Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the United Nations, columns and editorials in acclaimed newspapers like the New York Times, the Guardian and especially the work of the local artists like Masood Hussain and Ali Saffudin who through their paintings and revolutionary songs awakened a new spirit in the freedom loving people of Kashmir.

What Did We Achieve?

The people of the valley through their spirit and conviction showed to the world that Kashmir would never get bogged down by the petty tactics of New Delhi. New Delhi tried every trick in the book, but the end result was that Kashmiris relentlessly opposed the brutal crackdown on their human rights. The mainstream parties and certain elements are today gaining confidence, telling the masses that we achieved nothing and the Hurriyat has to submit itself to an ‘audit’. No doubt that Hurriyat is also answerable for the policies it adopted but this uprising was all about the masses; the Hurriyat had a supporting role. The Hurriyat might have failed, but the people didn’t fail. The human loss that accompanied the courageous revolt was saddening, but we did not lose hope, and that is the biggest positive thing we achieved from this mass uprising.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.”

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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
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