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From Shambhu Lal To Padmavati: Hate Crime Is The New Normal In India

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India has been long-plagued by poverty, inequality, growing rates of unemployment, widening gaps between a few rich Indians and the majority of the poor, and rural distress exacerbated by agrarian crises. It is now faced with other crises: rising cases of cow-vigilantism and hate crimes.

In an already-continuing series of hate crimes, one of the latest victims happens to be Afrazul Khan, a 47-year-old migrant laborer from Malda, West Bengal, who was working as a daily labourer in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. Apparently, his ‘crime’ was his faith and humble background.

The perpetrator, Shambu Lal Regar, was a semi-literate, on-and-off marble trader, who seems to have been struggling to make ends meet. He seems to have had an ingrained hatred for Muslims, which he developed after allegedly watching hate videos.

Regar’s instructions to his teenaged nephew to record the gruesome act marks his audacity. His rants about ‘love jihad’, ‘Islam’ and ‘Babri Masjid’ are some of the evidences that are, perhaps, enough to deduce that incidents of hate crimes have indeed become a new normal in Indian society.

What makes such incidents worse is the tendency of the predatory individuals or mobs to record their barbarity and then share them on social media – allegedly to draw plaudits from right-wing groups and to even create a pervasive fear, especially in the Muslim community. In this case, a social media commentator hailed the deranged killer in the following words: “Love jihadiyon saavdhan, jag utha hai Shambhulal Jai Shri Ram (Love jihadists, beware, for Shambhulal has risen)!”

In my opinion, these people share one thing in common: they believe that the perpetrator will easily get away with their actions as such perpetrators have previously also been given a free run – or worse, state protection. This is evident from the case of Pehlu Khan, who was killed by self-styled cow vigilantes in Alwar. The attackers were not detained and those who were arrested by the police are now out on bail.

These incidents have made a mockery of the Indian judiciary – and often allows the perpetrators of heinous crimes to enjoy unflinching impunity, often making the state complicit in their ill designs.

Imagined Grievances Versus The Real Ones

In my opinion, right-wing groups seem to have successfully created ‘imagined grievances’ in the minds of the people, either by fabricating or twisting historical facts. For example, they tend to believe that the Mughals ruled with an iron fist – and that they discriminated against Hindus, destroyed temples and built mosques on them. They have even swayed some media outlets to the extent of spreading hatred in society by poisoning the minds of people with anti-Muslim rhetoric, hate, and prejudice.

Some right-wing groups also cite the examples of Bangladesh and Pakistan where, they claim, Hindus are a persecuted minority and often subjected to cruelty. This, in my opinion, is a clear move to justify the reciprocal punishment of  Muslims in India. While there may be an iota of truth in these claims, pitting one group against the other or punishing innocent people is not justifiable, and goes against the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution.

All this happens at the cost of the ‘real issues’. Many poor Hindus raise the alarm bells against issues such as ‘love jihad’, beef consumption and the growing Muslim population. However, they overlook the ‘real issues’ such as growing unemployment, increasing number of farmer suicides in India, corruption, the crumbling healthcare system and the lack of quality education. This often results in a situation where a poor farmer (for instance) is too engrossed in anti-Muslim rhetoric to even ask for their basic amenities and a better quality of life.

The Padmavati Row

The memories of the Padmavati row are still fresh – especially the drama that ensued and the impunity with which a right-wing group issued threats to the film’s crew, including the lead actress, Deepika Padukone. Also, what’s relevant here is the sympathy the group got from the Rajasthan state government, which even banned the film  before the Censor Board’s decision.

What people are failing to understand is that all these incidents are distracting us from the issues which actually create consistent obstacles in our path to becoming a modern society with high-living standards, democratic values and a liberal ethos.

Hate crimes lead to the polarisation of the society, which may give an edge to those politicians whose primary concerns are to seize power (either by hook or crook) and to exploit the gullible Indian electorates.

Prayer For Justice

Hate crimes are against democratic values. They violate inviolable human rights – and lead to the polarisation of the society, cruelty and barbarism. The citizens should build a clear and unambiguous consensus against hate, mob justice and hooliganism. Besides, states should adopt a zero tolerance policy against the perpetrators of hate crimes. They should denounce and prosecute them swiftly.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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