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Shambhu Lal And The Way Ahead: Dealing With Hindutva Created Cultural Panic

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According to Wikipedia, love has a simple meaning – a variety of different emotional and mental states, typically strongly and positively experienced, that ranges from deepest interpersonal affection to simple pleasure. On the contrary, ‘Jihad’, a completely unrelatable term has a series of contextual meanings, ranging from ‘struggling with a praiseworthy aim’ to ‘one’s struggle against their evil inclinations’ and even ‘war’.

But unlike ‘love’ and ‘Jihad’, “Love Jihad”- a phrase probably coined by Indians, or to be politically correct – by supporters of Hindutva, implies Muslim men seducing Hindu girls into Islam through marriages. While many discard it as a political conspiracy forged to create a moral and cultural panic, some still believe it to be as real as ISIS. Rajasthan’s Shambhu being one of them.

What’s more important here is not its meaning or acceptance but the sentiment associated with it. The sentiment of containing the Muslim population which rose marginally from 13.43% to 14.23% in a decade following 2001, the sentiment of undoing Gandhi’s “so-called” mistakes of not surrendering to the demands of the RSS, i.e, declaring India a Hindu state the same way Jinnah declared Pakistan an Islamic state and the most radical of these sentiments results in the use of hate and panic creating tools like Love Jihad, cow vigilantism and certification of nationalism.

RSS today has many such tools available with them to make both political and demographic advances in favour of a Hindu state. These tools partially worked in British India with Jinnah asking for a partition on the basis of religion but didn’t work fully due to Gandhi’s non-acceptance of India as a Hindu state. In today’s time when RSS’s BJP has commendable political power, they are back on track.

But what even they didn’t expect is India’s soft response to their agenda. India is taking their agenda so well that it has even accepted a saffron laden chief minister, a leader who indeed openly says India can’t be secular and has to be a Hindu state. And what perhaps comes as a moral and ideological victory to them are incidents of blind hate; people literally using axes to murder on the basis of a mere conspiracy theory, people labelling world recognised universities ‘anti-national’ based on fake videos, people caging girls like Hadiya and opening conversion centers to respond to the cultural panic of rising Muslim population.

The problem of hate crimes further deepens when news channels knowingly and unknowingly propagate the messages of conspirators by repeatedly making flashy headlines like “It seems to be a case of Love Jihad”, Another cow slaughter house in Muslim dominated area vandalised”. They have become so competitive that in their lust for TRPs they have forgotten that they are altering the conscience of people, they are helping Hindutva leaders to plant seeds of hatred in the minds of their viewers.

People like Shambhu Lal are also inspired by them. He perhaps got an aim in his life. An aim which helped him put the blame of his inaccessibility to education and healthcare on someone else, an aim which gave him a cause to live for.

The advantage these hate mongers have here is that their agenda is not a legally punishable one. They know that, like, it was never legally proved Godse killed Gandhi by taking inspirations from Hindutva leaders, it can never be legally proved that this Rajasthani Shambhulal murdered based on inspirations from Hindutva hardliners. Neither do we have a strong Congress which not just openly opposes such hate crimes but also strongly link them back to RSS, a Congress like that of the late 1940s which dared to even ban RSS, a Congress which in itself had an ‘ideology’ of its own.

And when I show this concern about the issue of hate being used as a tool to propagate political agenda of cultural nationalism, I speak on behalf of the whole world. Be it Trump’s America or Modi’s India, UK’s Brexit or Germany’s AfD, France’s Marine Le Pen or Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, the world has seen a surge in politics of cultural nationalism and moral panics and is facing a difficult situation. A situation where feelings and sentiments of a few decide policy and law and order. A situation where leaders are pushing their own countries on the edge of civil wars. This hate politics has only given the world pain and agony, be it through the Holocaust, 2002’s bloodbath, Charlottesville’s confederacy or the Rohingya crisis.

To counter this hate, we must show our support to the cause of unity and development for all. We must object to leaders prioritising cow memorials and Ram statues over dying children. We must not let our debates get dominated by “Was it beef or not?” or “Are you nationalist enough to live in this nation or not?” We must ask our leaders to comment on education, healthcare and corruption. We must tell them point blank that “Mandir or Masjid” will not give us a future we want but education and employment will.

Last but not the least we must write for what we stand for, otherwise it won’t be long enough before filmmakers all across the world have to sensitise us with another “My Name is Khan”, but this time it won’t be based on USA’s post-9/11 hate crimes but on stories of Akhlaq or the most recent one of Mohammad Afrazul.
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Image source: YouTube/ Mujeeb Faruqui/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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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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