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Where Is India’s ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ When It Comes To Rohingya?

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I’m not a staunch or devout theist. Nor can I recall myself claiming to be an atheist either. I’m more comfortable with expressing agnosticism than having any fervent attachment to beliefs lacking rationality.

But I’ve always taken pride in the collective and harmonious cultural milieu of India, in spite of how imperfect the nation may seem in myriad ways. I presume culture to be a culmination of a way of living built by groups of human beings and passed on from one generation to another.

Culture is generated after a long process of amalgamation of people from different civilisations carrying various customs and traditions and having varied religions. All such elements endow a new civilisation to the land.

Through out its history, India has been generously accommodating towards several tribes, hordes, refugees and even invaders and plunderers. No other land besides India could ever be credited to have adopted and embraced people from manifold areas so wholeheartedly.

People from diverse backgrounds came and settled in the peninsula – this includes central Asians, Turks, Afghans, Tibetans, Persians etc. We’ve triumphed through our tradition of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, comparing the guest to God. The land, thus, belongs to no particular sect or religion at all. And that is why, even the Constitution of India embodies the idea of secularism, giving it a formidable part in the preamble.

But the recent stance of India on the Rohingya issue is not only disappointing but it might also affect India’s carefully crafted soft power image across the globe. In its haste to appease the Myanmar government and to stem China’s growing influence in the Buddhist nation, the Indian government’s move is unabashedly contemptuous and contradictory to the values of hospitality and inclusiveness that India stands for.

Calling 40,000 Rohingya Muslims to be terrorists and treating them as a potential threat to the nation isn’t just ignominious but a mockery of the plight faced by these victims of aggression who now belong to no nation. Frightened and scared, the Rohingya are considered to be one of the world’s most persecuted stateless people and yet they are tagged as potential criminals.

Instead of being compassionate, India shunned their hope of seeking refuge and denied basic public amenities. As a citizen of the nation which enjoys being hailed as the ‘big brother’ amongst its neighbours, we have belittled ourselves to an extent where no apologies would compensate for the apathy we have shown towards the some of the most unfortunate people in the world.

India’s dissociation from the Bali Declaration adopted at the World Parliamentary Forum on sustainable development in Indonesia, for restoration and respecting human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith, posits grave questions to its deference to human rights and consideration towards minorities. 

It’s hard to picturise 40,000 oppressed people as terrorists/drug dealers/human traffickers or criminals in any imaginable form. I’m not a defence expert to see what harm they could pose to the nation.

I could only see tormented and terrorised human beings who have been through a lot and are still being hunted down. The least we could do is provide them shelter and homage to allow them to feel safer and begin a new and better life without the fear of thrown out.

If a small, resource-strained nation like Bangladesh could dare to expand its wings and host 800,000 Rohingya, there are various measures India could undertake to regulate and check upon the Rohingya along with their rehabilitation. It’s not just a humanitarian effort but an obligation to furnish our responsibility as a considerate neighbour.

You must be to comment.
  1. Tamal “CyRus” Chakraborty

    I dont know why people have to bring up this topic every time..self fame?

    If u are from bengal you will know what i am talking about..and how the situation is out of control here …
    If u r so concerned about Rohingyas ..go ahead and make a change…adopt one at your home ..feel free..


  2. sanket salgaonkar

    They have 58 muslim countries to go….Our culture, System, Low doesn’t match with them.

  3. sanket salgaonkar

    keep at least two families in your HOME also.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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, 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.

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