This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sourodipto Sanyal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

20 Days On, The Poor Seem To Have Lost The Most In Noida’s Mahagun Class War

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

It has been over three weeks since a riot-like situation emerged at the Mahagun Moderne Society in Sector-78, Noida, where low-income workers gheraoed the society, protesting the alleged abuse of Zohra Bibi, a Bengali Muslim woman domestic worker, by her employer.

Shocked by the incident, some residents wanted to put a ban on the entry of the Bengali Muslim women domestic workers who worked in the society. And in the process, the conflict, which was described by many as a ‘class war’, took an ugly turn, with nationalism and communalism being interwoven in the narrative.

More than 20 days on, the situation at Mahagun has changed considerably. While some residents say that things have ‘normalised’, with many Bengali women workers returning to work, many things are no longer the same. Not all Bengali women workers have been very fortunate.

The Impact Of The Protests

The immediate impact of the violence was the creation of a list by security guards of 61 domestic workers who had been ‘identified creating chaos during mob attack’. The list was made to check the entry of workers in the society.

Since then, as per Ramesh (name changed), a resident of the society, the list has been updated twice. The number of workers went up to over 80 in the second list based on CCTV footage. While the third list had more than 140 names, based on the guards personally identifying the workers.

For now, workers included in the list are only being allowed in the society if the owners are willing to take responsibility after signing an undertaking.

According to residents, around 60 workers from the list of 140 or a little less than half the number of them have been called back to work. The rest, haven’t come back.

Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA) tried to get in touch with Zohra many times. According to this report in the Times of India, Zohra has gone incommunicado.

An image of Zohra Bibi. Taken sometime after the workers’ protests. Image source: Arya Thomas/ Facebook

Others too have left the area. Jahnavi (name changed), Ramesh’s worker, for example, had to shift base to her home in Cooch Behar. Despite Ramesh being willing to take her in, she decided to leave because of the situation in the society.

Like her, many slum dwellers had to face other hardships in the aftermath of the incident. Just two days after the incident, the electricity and water supply of the slum clusters opposite Mahagun Moderne was stopped. Then there was fear of police raiding the tin sheds.

People In The Slums Have Their Story To Tell

Jahnavi isn’t the only one to have given into the fear. Many in the slum clusters right opposite Mahagun have either gone to their hometown or shifted to nearby slums. Rows of tin sheds lie empty.

And while everyone YKA spoke to from the slum clusters claimed they had nothing to do with what happened at Mahagun, many talked about how they were out of a job nonetheless. However, some like Rukma (worker), a 28-year-old worker, have been lucky enough to be taken back by their employers. She had resumed work about a week after the incident. Rukma said that she would have supported Zohra Bibi in her struggle had her livelihood not been on the line.

Many others harbour a palpable resentment against Zohra Bibi. They hold her responsible for the hardships they all have had to go through.

Sabrina (name changed), another 24-year-old woman who continues to work in Mahagun said, “Ami or side ni ni. Chini o naa, jaani o na. Oder jonne amader o dikkat.” (I did not take her (Zohra’s) side. I don’t know who she is. Because of them, there’s problem for us too.)

What Has Changed In Mahagun?

The list of rates offered by a private agency for employing women domestic workers for different services in Mahagun.

In the society, private agencies that provide domestic workers, are filling the gap created due to the reduction in the number of workers who have been rendered jobless. And many residents are hiring the services of these agencies now, instead of informal workers.

There is a severe crunch (of workers). Many people, what they have done is that they are hiring these professional agencies and they send you daily workers… It’s expensive but people are opting for that,” Amrit, a resident, told YKA.

That said, not everyone is opposed to hiring informal workers and there are people in Mahagun who are recommending Bengali workers to each other, on social messaging groups, a resident told YKA.

There also have been messages of people objecting and saying that we should not lose our sense of empathy towards the disadvantaged. There have been messages like that also, and quite long ones,” Amrit added.

The backlash of the domestic workers over the alleged abuse of one Zohra Bibi has resulted in the livelihoods of many workers being temporarily hijacked. Some of whom had probably not even seen Zohra Bibi. While the ‘class war’ has generated fear and insecurities in the minds of some of the Mahagun Moderne residents, the consequences for the ones who worked in these homes have been far more. Only time will tell if all Mahagun residents will trust informal domestic workers again, or whether the business of private agencies will continue to thrive. For now, everyone is trying to get on with their lives the best way they know.


Featured image source: Sunil Ghosh/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Similar Posts

By Kapil RN Sharma

By Martha Farrell Foundation

By Imran Khan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below