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The COWards: The new law-enforcement agency of India.

India is known for its rich and varied cultural heritage, the land of Gods and colors has been the center of attraction of the globe in the recent years because of her productive demography with 51%  of population under 25. The world intellects believe that India will rule the world economy by 2030. But here’s the big question, are we prepared for it?  India is blessed with a rich concentration of resources the world has its eye on but also India is cursed with the malady of vigilantism. The self-appointed law enforcers in the streets of India have created a sense of fear among the minority class and among those vigilantes, cow vigilantes or the ‘ Gau Rakshaks’ have gained momentum in the past couple of years with their never-ending incidents of killing in the name of cow protection. The hardliners, as accused by the minority class and the opposition of India is said to be the terror outfit of the ruling government i.e. the Bhartiya Janata Party. A sudden wave of new terminologies have entered the market like never before and among those, “Hindu Rashtra”, “Gautankwaad” and “Saffron Terrorism” which has undoubtedly added fuel to the fire.

While some observe cow as a cheaply available source of protein, others believe in worshipping cow as a sacred animal (basically Hindus). The tensions arise when the society fails to mediate between the 2 viewpoints of cow lovers. As simple as that, hardliner Hindus turn into vigilantes when it comes to preserving their religious sentiments and use the basic tool for restoring communal satisfaction which goes against the ethos of democracy as well as humanity. Yes, the basic tool. The basic tools of cow vigilantes include public taunting, hate speech, mass assault, property damage, forced religious practices and last but not the least, mob lynching. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India is well known across the nation for his pro-Hindu beliefs superseding the minority’s interest. Critiques often relate PM Modi to a mass butcher and an anti-Muslim leader following the 2002 Gujarat riots which claimed the lives of a large section of Muslims. Considering the statistics and observing the violence in the name of cow protection has increased to huge numbers after May 2014 when Modi government came into. But if we take the case of the 20th century, it was the Indian National Congress which should be held accountable for initiating this ruckus. Before the BJP was even formed in 1955, Congress had banned cow slaughter in 24 states across the country.

Let’s see the timeline of the series of events associated with the issue. In March 2015, Maharashtra banned the sale of beef and also fined Rs 10,000 and 5 years of imprisonment if found consuming beef. The same order was followed by Haryana but with a higher penalty of Rs 50,000. While violence in the name of cow protection has been in existence long before BJP came into power, the truth is also that the intensity of the situation and violent mob activity has reached to an extreme level. The data journalism portal indiaspend.com analyzed cow-related violence over a period of eight years. It found that of the 63 attacks reported during these years, 61, or 97 percent, were reported after May 2014. Half the cases were reported from the BJP-ruled States and 86 percent of the victims were Muslims. In all, 124 people were injured in the attacks, which took place in 19 States. While social media is now an important component of human existence, it’s not surprising to know that 52% of these attacks were based on rumors.  According to India spend, in 5 percent of these attacks, there were no reports of the attackers being arrested. In 13 attacks (21 percent), the police registered cases against the victims/survivors.

One of the phases also includes forced religious practice. Victims are often made to raise slogans which are against their interests, made them refrain from eating beef. Similar was the case with Yusuf Sheikh, a policeman. He was beaten up and paraded through the streets of Pangaon in Latur district of Maharashtra for doing his duty. He was made to hold a saffron flag and chant Jai Bhawani. The opposition calls it the rightist conspiracy of intimidating the minorities and holds the Modi government solely responsible for the mob culture while the left believes that it’s the greed of wrong politics of the right wing to pursue their agenda of achieving the target of Hindu Rashtra by the means of declaring a war against Muslims and the Dalit community and calls the mob culture as ‘Saffron Terror’. These clashes of political ideologies have affected the nation in various manners as it has shifted the focus of the government from some serious issues like poverty, farmer suicide, inflation, economy, geopolitics, diplomacy, security, terrorism to some silly debate over an animal. This has also resulted in multiple failure in parliamentary functioning as the house often got adjourned without a productive proceeding.

Loss of national assets is also one of the big impacts. The mainstream media plays an important role in addressing these situations, it often refrains from mentioning the state involvement in the mob violence rather uses the term ‘mob rule’ to project a neutral image but sounds more of a pseudo-neutral approach, On Friday, May 25, 2017, the Environment Ministry issued a notification effectively banning cow slaughter across the country, which of course led to a lot controversy. The bill included the sale of cattle only for an agricultural purpose. In protest, the youth wing of Congress party called for a beef party in one of its office in Kerala where a calf was slaughtered publically. This incident was followed by mass protests from BJP leaders and was condemned by right-wing leaders nationwide. States where the ban is effective to include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, and Gujarat.

While India is going through some serious problems like farmers issue, unrest in Kashmir, border row with China and Pakistan, poverty, economy and others, the citizens find themselves in denial and the government has engaged itself in an absurd debate. Globally we’re known as the pillar of democracy holding great values of culture and history, but we are slowly drifting towards a situation where we might find ourselves in absurdity.

The gravity of the situation can also be observed from the point when PM Modi himself came out in Public and criticized the Gau Rakshaks at multiple platforms, who practice anti-national activities in the night and turn cow saviors in daytime. He also said that vigilantism in the name of cow is unacceptable. The nation wants to save its constitution from getting tampered by not letting it fall into the hands of those disgraceful few who are destroying the roots on which this great nation was built. Implementing such laws snatches away the state rights of any citizen and the nation as a whole should understand that being a ‘silent majority’ is no more in cards now, it’s time to make a call.

In the era of digitization, it’s a matter of utter shame for any normal Indian to accept the fact that we are living in a society that is prioritizing an animal’s life over a human life. living in the biggest democracy is a privilege and a matter of great pride for any individual. Taking away the basic rights of a religious few to protect the sentiments of the majority section tears apart the ethos of democracy.

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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.”

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.

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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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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.

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