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Dear Bapu, No One Today Cares About Your Real Concern – Freedom

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To Bapu,

First of all, happy birthday! Since this morning, I have been thinking about you and ultimately decided to write a letter to you.

Who knows, heaven might be far more modern than our world and you might be scrolling through your divine social networking site and my letter may reach you.

In our generation of ‘cool people’, any critical engagement with you has been very difficult due to two reasons.

Firstly because you have been idealised since our primary school days. Our parents and teachers presented you as a superhuman with no human follies, blunders, and contradictions. Ruling forces have used you for their own mileage by trying to create ‘Bapu ke sapno ka desh’ (Bapu’s dream country). You have been associated with various symbols like khaki, charkha, and chashma. No one is concerned about your actual symbol that is freedom. Freedom to dissent, freedom from corruption and abuse of power, freedom from discrimination.

Secondly, it’s because there are people who think it is cool to be a member of the ‘Gandhi hate club’. I have interacted with such people. They portray you as anti-modern, a conservative-Hindu, and at the same time, anti-Hindu. There are various articles which scrutinise your sexuality.

I know you must be hurt by both these extremes. You were not superhuman and never had you claimed to be God. You were an ordinary human being without any divine power who acted extraordinarily under extraordinary circumstances. It is very natural for you to have human complexes, insecurities, and follies. Why were you not allowed to make some blunders and contradictions? Every person has countless shades in their personality and every shade cannot be liked by everyone. But how reasonable is it to overlook the extraordinary contribution made by a person because of their imperfections?

Bapu, honestly, I am so busy with my own daily struggles and weaknesses that I do not get time to think about you. But whenever I deliberately try to think about you, I have never been able to hate you. You were a genius. As an individual, you led a lifelong quest for self-transformation. You have always learned from your mistakes. You had the guts to accept your flaws. We only talk about the prevalent problems but you always chose to act. This makes you different from us. History is the evidence of your strength to stand for those who are exploited against those who exploit.

Bapu, a fascinating thing about you was your intellect to transform the poorest, most vulnerable, exploited and the weakest section of people into revolutionaries. The person who was starving for their basic needs, you gave them the courage to dream of freedom. You recognized that freedom of the nation can be won only through mass political struggle. The struggle was innovative and unique in itself. You had a successful experiment with tools like Satyagraha and non-violence.

We can learn the mantras from your struggles and apply them to other problems. We learned that to deal with a chronic problem, we need to address the root of the cause and then find an innovative solution. You gave Indians the tool of Satyagraha. You might have looked old and fragile but there was something in you that even the most brutal and powerful regime was unable to kill you and your struggle.

Lastly, I would like to say that I do not consider you superhuman. I accept that you also had follies and personality contradictions like many of us have. I do not have any problem with the critics who indulge in constructive criticism of your personality and decision-making. At the same time, I have a lot of respect for your fearless, intelligent, pragmatic, determined and compassionate persona.

No one can afford to ignore your life as a ‘hero’ and even your failures were ‘heroic’. I do not know whether we need another Gandhi but we always need a person like you who can bring pragmatic changes against undesirable chronic issues.

With lots of respect,

Anamika Jha

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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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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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