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I’m An Indian Muslim And Here’s Why I’m Scared Of Living In India

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Welcome to India – the land of lynchers. The land where there is a mob ever ready to kill people of a particular sect and religion. The land where a singer can insult a JNU student and another singer backs him up and goes to the extent of deleting his Twitter account in the former’s support. The land of undue hatred. However, this hatred is not new. Be it the 1983 Nellie massacre or the 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the 1987 Hashimpura massacre or the 2002 Gujarat riots or the never ending atrocities towards Dalits and Adivasis, hatred has always been in the minds of the majority towards the minorities and Dalits. And our government has time and again failed us minorities because it can’t afford to lose the vote of its majority.

Just the other day, the blood soaked picture of a man begging for his life went viral but failed to create the outrage that a similar picture in the 2002 Gujarat riots did. And if that is not enough, Major Gogoi, who tied a voter to a jeep as a lesson to the stone pelters, has been awarded by General Bipin Rawat, and once again, our so-called nationalists applauded Rawat for the ‘greater deed’ done for the nation. The Saharanpur violence has already created a stir with anywhere between 10,000-20,000 people from the Bhim Army gathering at Jantar Mantar to protest against the atrocities on Dalits.

And all these incidents make me wonder if this is the worst phase that India is going through. A mob can lynch anyone on the road and nobody cares. And if you’re from a particular religion, be prepared that a segment of politically influential people might just favour the crime. Remember Akhlaq’s lynching and how his alleged killer was wrapped in tricolour and commemorated like a martyr? People are being killed on the basis of rumours spread on Whatsapp. And we are the ones who mocked Pakistan for lynching Mashal Khan. What hypocrites!

JNU student Shehla Rashid Shora (Image Credit: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The houses of Dalits and lower caste people have been set on fire. Women are getting raped and kids killed. But we are quiet. And this deafening silence is what our society consists of now. It consists of a mob filled with bloodlust and people who show solidarity on Facebook and other social media platforms and then forget all about the incident. A student disappeared from Delhi’s most reputed central university and the central government took no notice of it. And those who spoke against it were termed as ‘anti-nationals‘.

But wait, why am I even writing to a nation whose conscience died along with the men its mob killed. People meeting us in our day-to-day lives are the biggest goons. You write for a subject that matters to you and you’ll be subjected to rape threats and verbal abuse just as Shehla was. I keep on getting threats on a daily basis. A certain group of people assumed that I slept with Najeeb. Why? Because I ended up making a video about his mother and her plight, and of course, relations like humanity doesn’t exist for us Indians anymore. Would you tolerate it if somebody speaks like this about your sister, wife, mother or girlfriend? Or would you yourself talk like this about them? Then why are we quiet when a singer stooped as low as he can and abused a student activist?

After May 14, 2014, I’ve come across many bigots on my friend list and I’m now used to losing friends and gaining enemies. It’s a daily part of my life now. I’ve faced unfounded hate at every step for the last three years. But at the same time, there are people who stand up against this religious intolerance. But what’s scary is how a lot of people have taken these incidents, not as a communal occurrence, but as serendipity.

We, the Muslims of India, are seen as an undivided group. I have grown up hearing comments like, “Oh, you don’t look like a Muslim,” or “You are too western to be a Muslim,” or my favourite of all, “Do you eat beef?” I have been time and again stereotyped and I’m sure it’s the story of every other Muslim. And it’s a reality that we are living with.

But who triggered such stereotypes and this mob bloodlust? Us. We did. You did. I did. And remember, there will be a day when this mob will kill us, irrespective of our religion or caste. They won’t think twice whether we belong to the majority or minority. They’ll just kill us.

My parents who live in west Asia are scared. They ask me to stay away from controversial topics. And to be honest, the kind of hate messages I receive daily on my Facebook profile scares me too. Yes, I’m scared. I’m scared to write. Every time when I cook mutton in my otherwise ‘premier’ society, I’m scared. I’m scared to wear hijab that I usually wear during Ramadan. I’m scared of being at the receiving end of this unreasonable hatred.

But I’m a journalist as well and it’s my duty to talk about the plight of minorities and the others who are oppressed. Am I supposed to be scared of being honest in my profession just because I’ve an Arabic surname? How long will it take for India to realise that I’m an Indian daughter too? When will I be patriotic enough for them to understand that I care about my country too? Yes, you might call me an ‘anti-national’ if you want to, but remember, being a nationalist is not a tag to be proud of either!

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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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