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Valson Thampu: ‘Traitors Must Not Be Spared’

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Now that the two state elections are over, the Prime Minister would be at ease to mind matters of national importance. The integrity and inviolability of India is a supreme concern for all of us. It is, for sure, likewise with the PM.

So, it is only to be expected that, even without our urging him, he will address the issue reckoned here in an exemplary fashion. But this is just in case he forgets – and forgetfulness is a natural accompaniment of the weariness that hardwired election campaigns excrete.

It is no small matter that a former Prime Minister – especially an old, scrawny, ghostly figure who is too feeble to render himself audible, at times even decipherable – involves himself in conspiracies against the country he himself served as PM for a full decade. The fact that very senior people – Hamid Ansari, the former Vice President, Prem Shankar Jha (one of the most respected journalists of our times), Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former cabinet minister, and a former Chief of Staff, among others – were involved in this episode that sent a chill up the spine of the patriotic electorate of Gujarat, makes it critical and compelling enough to warrant a thorough investigation and severe chastisement. What makes it all the more offensive is that it was held in a brazen-faced, quasi-public sort of way, as though to cock a snook at the authority of the Indian State.

Does any of us think that Pakistan deciding that Ahmed Patel should be the Chief Minister – as a pliable tool in its hands – is a small matter? Many of us believe, privately and otherwise, (I certainly do) that Ahmed Patel should not be in politics at all. But that is our private matter, which cannot abrogate his constitutional right to do as he pleases, so long as he is not a threat to public order and morality. He is a threat to both, without a shred of doubt, if he is colluding with Pakistan. It needs to be dealt with, with the entire might of the State.

Mani Shankar Aiyar

Yes, Mani Shankar Aiyar, an accredited loose cannon, has been involved in back-channel exercises to promote a normal relationship between India and Pakistan. Like a host of others, he has been involved in people-to-people contacts with Pakistan for a very long time. I was aware of this; but I did not know for nearly two decades that he was harbouring sinister, anti-national intentions. No one knew! Smart fellow, this tricky Aiyar!

The Prime Minister is singularly charged with the responsibility to protect the country against serious external interferences in our internal matters. So, unlike others, I believe that Modi has a right to speak about it as and when it comes to his notice. There should be no seasonal restrictions for ferreting out traitors and smelling out overseas rats in our midst, even if it is big guns that are silently booming in anti-national activities, like what is alleged. They affect, according to Modi, the people of Gujarat, backward communities and the poor. (Why Pakistan is hostile to the “backward communities and the poor” is not all that clear to us. Hopefully, this riddle will be de-coded soon enough.)

Given the gravity of the matter, the PM, with the NIA and CBI ready at hand, should have initiated peremptory action the moment it happened. The smartest and fittest members of these agencies should have encircled the venue of conspiracy and taken the high-value culprits into custody. They should have been paraded on the streets of Ahmedabad. It is surprising that he didn’t do this, for all his vigilant, fierce decisiveness. It was an instance that certainly warranted a ‘surgical strike’.  Why the matter was overlooked for a while and was remembered only later, at a convenient point in time, too is a bit intriguing.

At the time the Prime Minister revealed this blood-curdling conspiracy to the people of Gujarat, whose interests were materially threatened by the substance of this revelation, neither they nor the rest of the nation had any means to know if the matter was indeed true, or was a piece of precision-guided fiction aimed at electoral windfalls. Now is the time to establish the truth of is substance.

If Modi fails or forgets to do so, the people of Gujarat can come only to one conclusion: they were taken for a right royal ride.

In that case the following needs to be taken into consideration:

Ironically, Pakistan was the decisive player – through Modi – in the Gujarat elections. That is to say, Modi won Gujarat with the help of Pakistan. (Electorally, there is no difference between Pakistan and the Pakistan bogey). Whether Pakistan is directly complicit in it or not is immaterial. There was no need to invent and unfurl a Pakistan-centric conspiracy against the people of Gujarat, if the outcome of the election could have been swung in one’s favour without that desperate measure.

Prime Minister Modi has paid the greatest, most flattering, compliment to Pakistan that it is the deadliest ammunition in the electoral arsenal of BJP, the foremost party of India. One wonders why the people of Pakistan do not celebrate this! Compliments, more explicit and outlandish than this, cannot be paid to a neighbouring and hostile nation. It is unprecedented in history.

Yes, the people of Pakistan have good reasons to celebrate, but what about the people of Gujarat. What about Gujarati asmita, in case the PM doesn’t follow up on his allegations and bring the culprits to book?

Would they really feel nice that they have been led by the nose with a piece of willful fraudulence? Is it all right with them that the bogey of Pakistan – if indeed it is so, how do I know? – is used to arm-twist them into pressing a different button?

And for the rest of us, who comprise Modi’s “sava sau crore Bharatwasis (125 crore Indians)”, where are we headed? The office of the Prime Minister is common to all of us and we hold it in high esteem. Cheapening its dignity is a matter of pain and disappointment for all Indians.

One word, in conclusion, about Manmohan Singh. I happen to know him by proxy. His son-in-law was my colleague for nearly four decades and his daughter was my student. I can vouch for something, with my hand on my heart. When Manmohan Singh was the PM, his son-in-law was under strict instruction not to entertain any favour seekers. He took his fierce sense of respect for the Office of the Prime Minister to an extreme extent. He made it clear to his son-in-law – going by what he confided in me – that he would be dear and cherished at home, but not welcome in the PMO. It is a bit difficult for me to believe that such a venerable old man can be, in the westering evening of his life, a surreptitious conspirator against the country he served lifelong with devotion and distinction.

But, who am I, or you, to rule out anything? We are no one to pre-judge a matter as serious as this. We cannot help loving and trusting our PM, till he proves himself untrustworthy. So, we wait, with bated breath, for the truth to be revealed with unsparing fierceness.  We insist that the guilty be punished. We demand that the integrity of the nation be protected with flaming earnestness and uncompromising decisiveness. Satyameva Jayate!

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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.

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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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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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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