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Why I’m Protesting Aditya Narayan’s Privileged VVIP Behaviour With A ‘Chaddi’

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Some of us who raise our voices against atrocities, often reach a stage when we find it getting lacklustre and boring.

For some, the level of boredom and helpless attitude is proportional to media interest. Not because people are media crazy, but because it is boring to be repeating the same thing again and again, in the same way, for years together for protesters and the media thrives on newness and sensationalism.

While there are many who still say the same thing again and again till their point is heard – and I salute their determination and resolve for change – for many others, the point to remain relevant and to create a media storm becomes important to win the battle.

Just yesterday, Aditya Narayan had a tussle with an Indigo airlines employee who reportedly questioned him on carrying excess luggage. Aditya Narayan threatened to remove the underwear of the staff. In his melodious voice, he said, “Teri chaddi nahin uttari naa, toh mera naam bhi Aditya Narayan nahin (If I don’t get your underwear removed, my name is not Aditya Narayan).”

I was furious. I posted a picture of me (fully clothed) holding my underwear on Facebook. I called it the #Chaddi protest. I did nothing to promote it per se. I was just happy that my creative juices were satiated as much as my want to register a protest.

This idea is not mine though. Underwears were first used as a means of protest by the Pink Chaddi campaign that urged people to send pink chaddis (underwear) to Sri Ram Sene who violently assaulted pub-going women.

The blog of the Pink Chaddi campaign was called, “The consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women.” They didn’t express disgust over being called pub-going or having a loose character or forward-looking women. They instead owned that space, which ended up being a tight slap on the face of the attackers.

I’m sure many of you have come across the term ‘protest fatigue’. Some of you might have even experienced it. The problem is that we never run out of things to protest, especially if we are to maintain a sense of balance and protest atrocities committed against people belonging to all interest groups. So what can we do to keep our democracy vibrant by raising voices of dissent whenever we come across injustice?

Well, creative expression of dissent can go a long way in strengthening a movement. So if lighting candles, chanting slogans and marching on streets are not your thing, perhaps you can take a leaf out of American footballer Colin Kaepernick’s book and ‘take a knee’.

Basically, ‘take a knee’ is when an American football (what we call rugby) player bends one knee to stop a game after they have secured a narrow lead over the other team in order to prevent the other side from scoring more and claiming victory. ‘Taking a knee’ effectively ends the game.

In 2016, Kaepernick was disturbed by the killing of black people by policemen and wanted to register his protest. At first, he kept sitting on the bench during the national anthem. This was considered an insult to the national anthem as people are expected to stand when it is being played.

A few weeks later he decided upon a novel way to register his protest and instead of sitting, he decided to ‘take a knee’.

This form of protest saw a resurgence recently when NFL team Dallas Cowboys decided to take the knee and then stood together locking arms to protest against President Trump’s remarks about firing anyone who dishonours the national anthem.

Inspired by the NFL players, several music, television and movie stars have also joined the campaign. Players from other NFL teams have also followed suit, often eliciting loud boos and sharp criticism from fans.

It is important to note that ‘taking a knee’ is different from ‘bending the knee’. The latter was the way to surrender or swear allegiance to a king in medieval Europe. In India also, the idiom “ghutne tek dena” means surrender.

But the ‘take a knee’ campaign is the exact opposite of that. It is an expression of dissent, an act of defiance and a way to stand up to bullies and bigots. I wonder if something similar would be successful in India though.

It appears difficult, given how a wheelchair-bound man was thrashed for not standing up when the national anthem played in a movie theatre in Goa last year. Something that led to this verdict by the honourable Supreme Court that exempted disabled persons from standing up for the national anthem.

To me, it just seemed like common sense and empathy for people who are disabled. The fact that such a thing needs to be prescribed by the Supreme Court itself is a matter of great shame for us. Perhaps empathy is not that common.

I wonder if I would attract the wrath of the Akhil Bharatiya Troll Sena if I were to upload a picture of me taking a knee to protest against homophobia, misogyny and Islamophobia, given how LGBT people are considered enemies of sanskaar. Women students were mercilessly beaten with lathis for demanding their right to safety at BHU last week. And don’t get me started on mob lynching.

I wonder if it would just be reduced to a symbolic gesture by over-enthusiastic keyboard warriors – a feeble no in the face of injustice – or would it become a countrywide movement standing up for human rights by kneeling down in protest?

Perhaps we have lessons to take from America in creative ways to register a protest. The players there did face the wrath. People continue to call them ‘anti-national’. However, that was the whole point – to be seen and heard in a world where the message dies before it reaches the recipient because of overcrowding of timelines and minds.

I love creative protests. But in times where the knees are too stiff to bend, there is always a special blend of poetry.

Here’s Trevor Noah’s lyrical protest against the curbing of the right to protest.of the right to protest.

“It’s wrong to do it in the street
It’s wrong to do it in the tweets,
You cannot do it in the field,
You cannot do it if you kneeled,
You cannot do it if you are rich,
You ungrateful son of a bitch,
Because there’s one thing that’s a fact,
You cannot protest if you are black”

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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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