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Lies, Sensationalism, Disinformation: The Enabling Of Fascism In India

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What does being a journalist entail in today’s world of information technology and digitization?

The growth of social media in the past half decade has inevitably been a blessing in many ways since it is now possible to access topics of interest and items of news in a manner that is unprecedented in history. And given the far-reaching power that the Internet presents us with, a large readership can be tapped in by easily sharing articles and pieces on current affairs and developments with friends, family, and acquaintances. This seeming democratization of media has made it possible for everyone to participate in discussing the issues that matter the most.

It could be then concluded that the job of the journalist is to merely collect, analyze, edit and present the multiple viewpoints so that the readers can have the ability to judge for themselves what position to take, and which argument to lend support to.

As it turns out, however, your ability and effectiveness at truly fulfilling your journalistic duties can be curtailed by anybody who owns the means of knowledge production. When we talk about knowledge production, we mean it is the ability of the hegemonic entity or group to be at a position wherein it is possible for them to spin narratives and create arguments in such a fashion that it would be possible for them to be accepted by a mass that is mired in illiteracy, malnutrition, feudalism, casteism, and patriarchy. This act of knowledge production is usually done in order to maintain the status-quo, to pacify the masses even when they are on the brink of open revolt and revolution. The very act of knowledge production is done with a singular purpose in mind:

To maintain the dominance of the ruling classes, by legitimizing their exploitation of the proletariat and, in the current international climate, serve the growing needs of fascism, especially the kind of opiate which is Hindutva fascism that we presently witness in this country.

In such a case, a journalist – in the true sense of their professional duty – is faced with a number of challenges in their work. Not only would they have to contend with the sweeping powers of the State, in their effort to close all avenues of dissent and alternatives, but they also have to combat certain “journalists” and their infamous publications that toe the line of the State and assist it in enabling the popular establishment of communal fascism. Such “journalists” and their publications of disrepute have been seen to appeal to gross sensationalism and outright lies in order to get their loyalty-ridden message across. I shall not name these discredited “journalistic” endeavours but it is safe to say that we are all aware of the kind of webzines and Facebook pages that are being talked about.

Normally, to even consider writing an article calling out on their crassness is in itself unnecessary or even pointless. However, resistance on the streets, in factories and in landed estates can be effective only when it is complemented with the act of resisting the very ideals which give rise to the oppressions that plague Indian society as of now. To write these articles is to filter the water from the milk, to show where the journalists and the “journalists” respectively stand. As a student of journalism who is very vocal about revolutionary politics, this article would expose a very common tactic of untruth the enablers of the fascist rule have resorted to, and continue resorting to.

I am, of course, referring to the terrorism-war dialectic.

It is rather easy to beguile people into believing that acts of revolutionary violence are akin to acts of terrorism, perhaps because the people concerned are too worried about how to win their meal for the next day, or too corrupted by the cancer of feudal regression to even question such an equivalency. Such being the case, “journalists” and other people working to perpetuate the interests of the ruling classes have quite an easy time in demonizing the very people who are out to do something concrete, as “terrorists”. And why should not they do this? After all, “terrorism” as a word always had a pejorative meaning and it has been associated with acts where scores of innocents were killed to attain vested objectives.

How then could this pejorative notion of terrorism ever be reconciled with the theory of people’s war that is brought forth by the Maoists?

Well, one only needs to look at the dictionary definition of terrorism to understand the first aspect of this conspiracy that has prevented the students and youth from investing their energies in revolutionary politics. A simple Google search brings forth the following:

“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Note that there is an emphasis on violence being joined by intimidation. Therefore, violence alone does not constitute an act of terror, since the feeling of terror is an outgrowth of being intimidated to the extent that the terrorized person is unable to articulate their opinions or political opinions, which run counter to the political aims an act of terror desires to achieve.

Contrast this with the definition of people’s war:

“A war in which the common people are regarded as fighting against the ruling classes and, or, foreign aggressors.”

Quite evidently, any war relies on violence by both the participating sides in the pursuit of their (military) aims. However, the chief characteristic of people’s war is that it explicitly combines political aims with the attainment of military objectives, and the fighting units are controlled by the vanguard party taking up the responsibility to fulfil the new democratic revolution. As such, there is no intimidation involved and the targets of the people’s army are the armed wings of the semi-feudal, semi-colonial state: the Army and the Police. However, the “journalists” and their backers try their best to showcase how they resort to intimidating the peasant and tribal masses to serve in their ranks, or how they deliberately target civilians like any other terrorist or how even the Maoists join hands with Islamic terror cells/groups. In subsequent articles, we shall see how all these respective assertions are nothing more than attempts defame revolutionaries and how all these slanders can be countered with satisfactory evidence and citing examples.

Presently, however, there could be some doubt on whether an act of violence itself could constitute an act of terrorism. If that doubt remains, it has to be borne in mind that such acts of violence have to be accompanied with a sense of intimidation upon those who would be the targets of such violence. And herein, we can see the formation of a philosophical argument that why the terrorism-war equivalence is an utter falsity.

Significantly, in order for the bourgeois state to maintain the existing relations of material and knowledge production, it necessarily has to perpetuate violence in order to eliminate any alternative that might challenge its otherwise unquestionable authority. The characteristic of such state-sponsored violence of the oppressor is, for all intents and purposes, intimidating. It seeks to silence any kind of discontent, dissatisfaction through either legal or illegal means – mostly, the latter, if we consider the history of the conduct of the Armed Forces of India. This is true for all countries, where the ruling classes are in power, a minority holding the wealth of the toiling masses in their pockets.

On the other hand, when the oppressed – especially the proletariat belonging to the lower castes, religious minorities and subjugated nationalities – partake in violence, it is carried out through the agency of their vanguard party, whose sole objective is to seize political power from the exploiting classes. It has to be remembered, though, that this violence in the capture of state power is not intrinsically violent, but has emerged to be violent thanks to the ruling classes not realizing that their historical period is over and therefore, reacting violently to the just demands of the exploited. Those who currently fight the State are not rich, nor do they benefit monetarily in any way, but they fight because they believe in a better world is possible, and such a world can exist only when the parasites of the human race and thrown away from their thrones.

To not realize this highly simple difference between terrorism and war adequately proves the utter journalistic incapacity of these “journalists” who go on to sensationally paint the danger Maoists have on Indian “democracy”, a “democracy” where millions have no right to say anything other than voting in one faction of the exploiting classes to power.

This is, however, not to say that people’s war has to be romanticized. Rather, it is again a pretty bourgeois mistake to do so, since the war would involve a lot of hardship and a lot of things that would involve killing another human being. Revolution is an absolute necessity if we have to save our people from the ravages of fascism. Otherwise, we run the risk of being silenced forever while those who are presently facing the brunt of semi-colonial, semi-feudal and Bramhinical oppression would eventually face further death and extermination.

And as a journalist, we can’t allow that to happen in any way.

To end this article and to concretize the entire argument, I’ll quote what Bhagat Singh had clearly said in his last petition:

“Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites… The days of capitalist and imperialist exploitation are numbered. The war neither began with us nor is it going to end with our lives. It is the inevitable consequence of the historic events and the existing environments.”

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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.

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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.”

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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
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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