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Titipa: A Secular “Island” in Odisha

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Landed at Titipa, in Chari Chowk block, at 1000 hours on 04 Oct, 2015; weather was clear, no cloud, visibility more than 5 km, winds light, temperature 30 degree Centigrade! When landed in this small village, surrounded by the tributary of Chilika Lake by three sides, realised the crowd to welcome one RS member & local two ministers of Orissa Government was more than 7-8 thousands!

I knew halt was for 4 hours, as the guests, whom I brought in small American Enstrom-480B Helicopter, were to lead a Padyatra (Foot March) in support of communal harmony, progress and of course their political party, that is Biju Janata Dal (BJD)!

After securing the helicopter with the security forces, which included IRS (Indian Reserve Security, their 75% pay is given by the Central Government), I went to a local High Secondary School, 1 km away, escorted by a local pharmacist, on his bike; as no other vehicle was available (Busy in the function) in this village!

Being Sunday, the school was closed, but they have a hostel, housing about 100 students, from an area, surrounding approximately 8-10 km, and 40-50 young boys and teachers, staffs were available there and wanted to interact with me!

I do not have even bare knowledge of Oriya, the local language, and this prompted one of the staff to ask me if I was an Indian?

Food was served 3 times to me, despite my protest, by 1 pm, which included Khanga fish (Akin to Rohu in our side), crab, prawns, 2-3 types of vegetables, Dalma (A local dish, mix of Dal, that is, pulse and vegetables), rice, sweet, etc! They felt sad, as I could not eat even one fifth of what they provided!

I was sitting in Teacher’s Common Room, relatively void of any sofa, carpets, curtains; had 4-5 chairs, 20 odd pictures hanging on walls (Included Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, MK Gandhi, JL Nehru, Pandit Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Biju Patnaik, Rajiv Gandhi, etc).

(Note: Pundit Gopabandhu Das (1877–1928) known as Utkala Mani (Gem of Odisha) was a social worker, reformer, political activist, journalist, poet and essayist.)

After the initial bursts of questions (Local ‘translators’ did good job), related to helicopter, my past, my pay, cost of helicopter, my native place and family size, etc, I got chance to query few questions! I was told, people of this district, Puri, favour BJD, Congress is almost out, BJP remains non-existent, but CPIM was visible! The population, which survived on Chilika Lake, fishery, farming, etc were poor but not starved, even though, literacy rate was rising, youths favoured Left!

Yes, there were 6 colleges in that area, basic medical facilities were available, serious cases had to go to Puri, Brahmapur or even Bhubaneswar!

On enquiring, why Hindi remained unpopular, they confessed, though they do not dislike but do not need it! In schools, till Secondary, students have to take 3 languages, and most preferred Oriya, English and Hindi/Sanskrit but none took Hindi seriously!

On non-veg culture of this region, they told, they prefer fish, chicken and mutton. Beef or pork is relatively unknown! They knew the incidence of UP, where a Muslim man was murdered, as part of conspiracy, they all disapproved such politics and showed their hatred towards RSS or any such organisation! (Few weeks back, there was massive procession in Bhubaneswar, demanding arrest of Babas; In the Capital of Orissa, where people are very religious!!). Political awareness was not lacking! They have access to most of the channels on TV, there is no movie hall, popular sports include cricket, little bit football!

Women are food earners of every family, like men, and as such, there is hardly known sex discrimination! Same goes with religion, Muslims are part of society as the Christians, and RSS effort to polarise society in name of Hindu Nation is treated with disdain!

Great! I loved this part of country, though not fully like Nan Cauvery Island in Andaman & Nicobar, where religion, till date, is individual matter, not even that of family (One family has Muslim, Christian and Non-Believer, the last one in fact is not an atheist, but has own form of god, a tree or something else), where in 1988, the ‘Queen’ of island was an old lady, named Lakshmi, maintained Visitors Book, Japanese & British have signed on it & I too did in 1987!

When a society is deprived of its natural harmony, Secularism due religion, caste, creed, colour, etc; it can never be restored back due Capitalism and its henchmen! Negation of Secularism is Communalism with some economic base, which is Capitalism, as of now, but next negation of Communalism is never back to natural Secularism! Now there is only one way to attain Secularism, that is, change the economic base of society to Socialism!

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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.

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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.

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