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‘Police In India Know When To Produce Evidence And When To Do a Houdini’

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Have you ever been to an Indian thana (police station), say in Pipli or Nidadavolu?

Go on. Step inside. Be brave. You will be raped in twenty-seven languages and a million dialects. You will be spat on. You will drink urine. And if you are lucky, you will die. But if you are reading this there’s a good chance you are not among the lucky.

Policemen in India are a scared lot. They will shit on you because that’s what they know – they have been shat on all their lives and this here is their chance. Those people huddled in corners and shaking at the edges. This is the opportunity for policemen to strike back. And there are so many ways to give back – why not, why not, indeed. All is fear in life and death.

We are so subservient, it has altered our morphology. In photos of Indians next to other Indians – or for that matter anyone – we stand in what is now called covering the crotch position. Hands juxtaposed strangely in front, for ladies and gents. In football, it is necessary before a free-kick. This is the Indian version. The police are afraid of the police who is afraid to police.

Shoulders lunging forward, arms covering potbellies, breath-holding selfie moment. Awkward? What awkward. Their dictionary starts and ends with “Do you know who I am”, which is also the favourite line of famous people. When they get an opportunity to know themselves, they hit us. Who is to blame – we, they, us, them, kismet? Zindagi. It is not easy being a cop in India – it is especially bad to be one.

Oh, look who just swung in through the saloon doors. ‘Saley, kuttay, masoom pe haath uthate ho? Maa kasam… (are you troubling the innocent?) and six policemen lie dead on the floor. A few minutes ago he had just rolled over a few bones on the curb. No, footpath. Amchi Mumbai or Namma Bengaluru – how does it matter? Same skeletons, another place. Another bitia, tibia, skull, socket joint, humerus, fragments from a crushed foot. That’s all that remained, anyway, one fateful night in Mumbai. Stupid

Stupid skeletons, wanted to sleep on a pavement and that too in the middle of the night. But one or two bones squeaked. How dare they. A FIR should be lodged against squeaking bones for noise pollution. Ban bones. Oh, sounds so chic. These beggars – who do they think they are? And for years now, a certain thana in Mumbai is quivering with fear, wondering what being human means to a monkey. Do monkeys have biceps?

What do policemen in India do after the criminal has been caught in the movie and after we have all clapped and whistled? The khaki uniform is so disrespected even the starch revolts, especially when policemen wear half and full-pants so stiff the canvas crackles as if you were sharpening a knife with the crease. They call it the unicorn. Can’t run, can’t sit, can’t lie down, can’t stand. All they can do is sweat. People fear sweat-drenched khaki more than they do khaki. Sweat denotes anger as much as fear.

Indian police stations are places where everything can be fixed except a leaking tap. This is where false is true and true is false, where body parts are made to appear and disappear, sometimes swiftly, sometimes with studied deliberation, as the dead come alive and the alive jump out of their skin. Don’t have evidence? Manufacture it. Have evidence? Destroy it. Defile the file. Too many files? Destroy the building. Easy. Set fire to it. Damp matchbox? Then go on leave, or better still, say there’s nothing to hide. Destroy, defile, deny. Here, behind that wall, across the hallway, are stacks of files. No one knows, a few care and even fewer come to find out.

Welcome to my cell where a five-foot man can be found hanging from a six-foot ceiling. Or where a man dies because he bit a live wire. Yes. That’s how justice is delivered in India while holders of positions and carriers of justice speak about it as a miscarriage. Strange sense one gets, of an India which is forever pregnant with Justice – she’s either delivering it, aborting it, or suffering a miscarriage. Feminine gender.

What is the ratio in India of people to the police? Some say three lakhs to every cop, some put the figure upwards of half a million. But who knows – who cares. Probably as many as the rats that run around our ration shops.

The police in India know when to produce evidence and when to do a Houdini. They watch before they act. But before they watch, we do. A girl lies strewn, bleeding to death. We don’t stop our cars because we are in a rush to buy candles and placards with which to manufacture outrage over her coming death. Such cowards we are, we even deprive a woman of her name. But crime has a name. Own it. Face it. Embrace it. It is yours.

Naming is distancing, naming is owning, naming is disowning, naming is belonging, naming is abandoning, naming is deriding, naming is defeating. And naming is defining. We are sanitized, we are globalized, we are immunized and we have given ourselves a number to dial in case of an emergency. 100. There’s a government notification requiring that the three digits should be displayed prominently in all public places across India. These include skeletons and police stations where the sun goes down and there is darkness.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can carry on with skeletons as witnesses. In the grand scheme of things you are only as alive as you feel for others, share their grief, lend a hand, spare a thought, and remember that loved ones will refer to your body as “it” even before rigour mortis sets in. The Rat Eater has only just started talking. It is about you, everything you hold dear and everything about which you know nothing. Ready to jump without nets? Brahmandam. Growing into deep silence to reinvent as a revolutionary, a Karma yogi?

In the meantime, before you laugh at India’s police people, stand straight. Order yourself a Manhattan – darkness at noon. Huh?

We are all rat eaters. Make no mistake, even the one that got away, is, in the final analysis, a rat eater. The cuckoo that flew over the nest also had a defined trajectory.


Read The Rat Eater here.

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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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