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The Demolition Of Babri Masjid And Its Aftermath

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Twenty five years ago, India witnessed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. An earth-shattering event – the echo reverberates to this day in society, in politics, in culture and in the minds and hearts of citizens. The entire country erupted into flames of communal riots with this event. With one push, India’s secular credentials were demolished. With one blow, communities were divided forever.

An older generation of Indians has seen the ugliness of partition and the carnage that followed. But those incidents have become a distant and hazy memory. India has survived and electoral democracy has been established. It may not be perfect, but it’s still a work in progress. In the past, Indira Gandhi and General Manekshaw had decidedly dealt with our pesky neighbour. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, the formidable duo of prime minister and  finance minister were dismantling the old and decrepit economic system, and replacing it with fresh blood and energy.

But suddenly came the rise of Advani, whom no one had heard of hitherto, and he announced his Rathyatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. The movement gradually started to get attention. Posters of “Mandir wahin banayenge” and “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain” started to show up everywhere. And society gradually started to polarize and drift apart as if Moses’s staff parted the red sea.

Many of us who grew up in those years, were barely in our teens – too young to understand the politics of it. But we became acutely aware of our religious identities. The tension was palpable, the atmosphere was rife with the specter of communal riots in almost every city. But all said and done, no one actually believed that it will happen. It was a mere slogan, a political drama to gather votes.

But as it happened, most of us had underestimated the power of resentment – imagined or otherwise. The organised sentinels of the Sangh had started to dismantle the structure on December 6, 1992. The chants of ek dhakka aur do motivated the karsevaks to perform their ‘duty’. The structure finally crumbled into a pile of brick, stone and dashed hopes of reconciliation. With very little media coverage and no live television reporting at the time, it was difficult to know how it happened. Most of the journalists were beaten and their cameras snatched. All we were left with were second hand accounts of eyewitnesses. It reminded many of us of that scene in B. R. Chopra’s Mahabharata when Draupadi was denuded by her brother in law and a court full of erudite and wise men wrangled their hands in disbelief but did nothing.

Muslim mohallas and communities were stuck to television and radios, watching and listening to the travesty that was unfolding. People started to say Babri Masjid shaheed kar di gayi. Unable to process the events, they were angry at the audacity of the events and more so with the government – which failed to provide even a pretense of law and order, and instead sided with the rioters and demolishers.

25 years have passed since that day, but the wounds haven’t healed. The architect of that event Lal Krishna Advani, now 90 years old, is a husk of his former self. Kalyan Singh has been forgotten and Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar (known for their rousing speeches) haven’t been heard of in a long while.

As for both communities, it is hard to gauge the extent of alienation. Beneath the veneer of civility and cordiality is simmering resentment and years of pent up anger. It erupted in 2002 in Gujarat and recently in Muzaffarnagar. But I believe that the true aftermath of the demolition, and its effect on communities can be seen in the electoral victories of the BJP.

With each election cycle, it continues to collect new victories under the benign gaze of the majority community. Elections are rife with the chants of minority appeasement. Every election cycle, this proverbial rabbit is pulled out of the hat and communities begin to polarize, as if under a trance. Either you are for it or against it – no one is free from this all-consuming phenomenon. Our country’s entire politics is now hinged upon the perceived notion of minority appeasement – either overtly or surreptitiously. The reality and true scale of this phenomenon remains to be determined. It has, on one hand, become a tool for demonising Muslims and on the other hand, a carrot for the rise of aggressive polarization.

The Sangh and the BJP achieved what they had set out to do – to create unanimity for electoral gains. Somewhere along the line, the actual concerns of each community remained inarticulate and unfulfilled. What did survive was a deep-rooted resentment that is harnessed by sly politicians, willing to win an election by hook or by crook.

In due course, a new generation of citizens will cross the threshold of youth and become voting citizens of India. They will have little idea of the mayhem that was unleashed by the demolition of Babri Masjid, and the chaos it had caused. As for all of us who witnessed that unfortunate event, we have moved on without any expectation of closure and justice. Our view of politics forever tinged with the colour of religion, our minds forever scarred by the lack of trust in state machinery.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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