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‘Right Side Mein Right Wing Aur Left Side Mein Left Wing’

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By Sanjana Chettri:

On February 23, 2017, it wasn’t a usual walk to the Moolchand metro station, for a fear had been instilled in me, of the anticipatory violence, post the disruption of a seminar at Ramjas College, University of Delhi and the retaliatory protest on February 21 and 22 respectively. As much as it was for standing up for an academic space, my emotions were equally invested, for my sister was made the victim of a ‘riot-like’ situation that the police could only pacify in rhetoric. My sister, who was beaten up and detained in the protest, made me involved at a personal level.

On February 23, a crowd of around 400 people gathered near the ITO metro station. It was a composition of students, faculties and journalists, sloganeering for a common demand; a demand for an FIR to be lodged on the account of violence by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) upon a crowd of peaceful protesters at Ramjas College. The way towards the ITO police headquarters was barricaded and heavily guarded by policemen and water cannons were present there. They tell us about the gravity of the situation.

Students protest against ABVP.

It was a peaceful protest, with students sharing incidents of grief, briefing updates about the attacks on students, while reiterating their demand constantly. Post this, the police commissioner convened the gathering which progressed to be a positive update temporarily, especially after not sending delegations to the police station for negotiations, due to the fear of being intimidated by the police.

Few student representatives indulged in a one-to-one session with Mr. S.B.K. Singh, the commissioner who tried to justify the police’s actions. Upon being asked the question of why an FIR was not lodged, he blatantly spoke of how 10 complaints regarding the same incident caused a hindrance to lodging a common FIR.

This is how the conversation went:

Student: “Sir, Ramjas mein jo peaceful protest chal raha tha usmein lathi charge ka order kisne diya?” (Sir, who gave the orders for lathi charge during the peaceful protest at Ramjas College?)

Commissioner (reluctantly): Wo mujhe nahin pata. (That I don’t know)

If we are really taking into account the lack of his knowledge on the subject, then the topic stretches to some other course; but even if we avoid the sarcasm, the answers given by the commissioner were not justified. The commissioner looked weak, with responses on being questioned about several other alleged incidents that have taken place since the past two days – women students being detained after 6 pm on February 22, police’s reluctance to disclose the FIR number (as they claimed of lodging an FIR), of their apathy towards violence against students by identified ABVP members, open rape threats to women students, witch-hunting in residences on February 22, of the restricted safety measures at Ramjas College, the detention of students and the use of police vans by ABVP member.

The protesters at ITO were kept waiting for two hours, for the FIR which was lodged to be produced and read out in public. This FIR was to be produced from the police headquarters, located about 100 steps away from the site of the protest. The protesting students also demanded a public notice to be issued by the police to welcome students to a legal space of sharing their grievances and producing evidence for the same.

However, the strategic turn to this waiting was greeted with a public order producing the transfer of the case to Crime branch and to be investigated by the DCP, Crime Branch. In addition to this, was a bizarre and chucklesome content framed in the form of an FIR under FIR number 28/17. The FIR was forwarded online, and aligned in poetic lines like “right side mein right wing aur left side mein left wing, donon ek dusre par ande phekh rahe they, aur police samjhane mein lage they” (on the right side were the right wing students; on the left side were the left wing students. Both the sides were busy in throwing eggs at each other), while the police were trying to explain and stop them. The FIR was a complete distortion of facts.

The case was being projected as a clash between the All India Students’ Association and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The police filed an FIR based on the complaints filed on February 22, 2017.

Unsatisfied with the outcome, some students with a team of lawyers went to negotiate with the police, only to come out to confirm that they would not file another FIR. The lawyers have said that we will have to challenge this in the court. There is a team of students drafting a petition to the National Human Rights Commission, Delhi Commission for Women and to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi.

Also, there is a conversation happening about organising an event at Delhi University along with teachers and students across colleges in order to reclaim our academic spaces, without being vulnerable to violence.

The struggle leads on, but it proliferates our mind. Shrinkage of academic spaces implies restricted use of knowledge, which the student community of this country isn’t ready to accept.
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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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