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The Troll Culture Is Taking A Frightening Part In Indian Politics

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Campuses in Delhi are massive hubs of debates, discussions and opinions. For a student coming from Mumbai, it is a fascinating experience. One such debate was about the increasing violence against rationalists and liberals.

The death of Gauri Lankesh shook everyone. The period will be marked as the time when the entire media fraternity came together with one voice. Now, amongst other things the discussion was about people like Ramchandra Guha, who is quite famous and yet voices out his opinions against the government. How safe are people like Guha, who are so robustly in the public domain?

I am of the opinion that the people who’d be attacked or would probably come in the harm’s way are the lesser known people like Gauri Lankesh. No one would risk hurting the comparatively known liberals.

Anyway, the article isn’t about the killings and the fear associated with it. After the discussion, I read a piece by Guha, which was called, “The Hindutva Hate Mail” where he had made a collection of abuses that people threw at him on e-mail. This is a much older piece when the social media hadn’t kicked in as yet; thus, hate ‘mail’.

I started to relate to that article; paragraph after paragraph, word after word. The amount of hatred spewed on social media is tremendous. You write something criticising the government; the next thing you know is, your wall or the comment section is filled with long messages of hate and abuse.

The rhetoric is more or less the same, ‘Modi is the only Messiah of the living people of Hindustan’. Now, there is a considerable difference in the abuses which Guha faced and the ones which we see today, on social media on every other post. The group of tolerant civilians has gone down drastically.

Everything has to be addressed, every statement needs to have a counter statement today, and every discussion has to end with personal bashing. This is not restricted only to the right wing. Even the left is accused of being less tolerant towards the ‘stupid’ right as they like to call it. We on social media are forced into believing things.

We are constantly bombarded with information that creates strong perceptions for or against something or someone. The only difference, and probably a massive one is that some political right wing people tend to believe these ‘things’ on social media more than the people with liberal ideas.

This bombardment of information, and many times the wrong one pushes this group of people more towards the right, and thus the hate comes in extensively. Intolerance, dissent, freedom of expression, etc.; these are just fancy terms. These people have a romantic affair with the RSS-BJP!

There Is A Pattern To This

It isn’t as simple as it looks. There’s a huge team of people with mobile phones and free internet, ready to attack any idea that goes against the narrative of the government. They will copy-paste the same message over and over again on multiple posts until people start believing it. Ever wondered why the top comment on every news post on Facebook does have to be a pro-BJP one?

Reportedly, people are paid to like the comments so that, that particular comment is displayed at the top. And usually, the top comment garnishes more attention than the post, itself. Many of my friends and I face this problem of abuses from unknown people on social media. Some are asking us to go abroad to our neighbouring country; some are so bad that I can’t mention them here.

They paint everyone with the same colour, Muslims are called names like ‘mullah’, etc. I have a very different set of religious beliefs. Thus these abuses don’t affect me much. But, some people are fundamentally attached to their beliefs, which makes all the more difficult for them to deal with these abuses.

The BJP has been bagging on this formula for quite some time now. And they have been successful at polarising the opinion. The information flow which is supposed to be multi-dimensional on social media has subconsciously become unidirectional with a limited few acting as gatekeepers.

The Culture Of Defamation On Social Media Shows No Sign Of Slowing Down

It is an alarming situation that many of us face all throughout the day. The culture of defaming people on social media is perpetrating in the system very fast. People talk about each other in a very insensitive way, and it’s not just about the psychology of the people. We apparently are being played.

The right-wing forces want the Hindus to believe that the Muslims are an immediate threat to their existence in the country, and while they try making Muslims think that they are cornered in the society. The question that arises is why is the BJP playing it so defensively? Why are they not allowing an alternative voice to gain space in the society?

Why are they so selective about what’s right for the country and what’s not? Why are rationalists like Lankesh murdered? (Although I do not directly blame the RSS-BJP for this.) Even after having won a lot of states in the previous year, why are they still politically vulnerable?

I think the BJP is getting uncomfortable with the upcoming elections and there’s fear of losing some states before 2019 general elections.

One cannot perfectly predict the future, but cheap social media tactics are going to increase tenfold as the election season approaches.

An Egyptian friend of mine asked me that how India is one even after so much diversity in culture. This looks like a cliché’ question, but she had a fair point because Egypt has a very monotonous culture, yet the problems and violence that the country is facing are tremendous. Very frankly I didn’t have an answer to her question.

I guess we are structured that way from generations. We have learnt to live along with different kinds of people, and the ‘secularity’ which our scholars like to define now and then is hereditary.

I really hope that this “Go back to Pakistan” trend ends. But making hopeful statements isn’t a wise thing to do!

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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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