This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shahla Khan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

If You Believe Muslims, Dalits, And Women Are Not Oppressed, Read This

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Something shocked and deeply saddened me today.

Scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I came across a post shared by a friend:

Few things that I want you to note about this are:

1. The name and image of the actual meme creator are boldly visible, with no filters, no fear, no shame.

2. The caption reads ‘agar Modi Ji ke saath hain to page like karein’; indicating this to be a post by someone from his political party with one goal: equate the love for your country with Modi (the two are not the same by the way)

3. The attack in this meme is on Shabana Azmi, the winner of awards such as the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour of the country. She is a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA). In appreciation of Azmi’s life and works, the President of India gave her a nominated (unelected) membership of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

The reason why this deeply shocked and saddened me is that it was shared by someone highly educated and who has several Muslim friends in her network.

Not for one second, did she think before sharing this graphic, how it would affect the people on her list who will read this? If someone as legendary as Shabana Azmi has been reduced to just being a Muslim to be hated and discriminated against, where does someone like me and the rest of the 14.2% of India’s population stand?

It was also shocking because this woman’s sister has complained to me for hours on end how much she is frustrated with things in India, how awful even the corporate world is and how many times she has tried to get employment in other parts of the world, especially in UAE which ironically happens to be a Muslim country.

At first, I thought of responding with a simple comment saying, “the fact that you shared this post without any thought and the bravado in the content is evidence enough about the condition of Muslims in India.”

It kept me mentally disturbed for hours. Then finally, I just unfriended and unfollowed because once you get to know of this line of thought, there is little left in the relationship. However, it disturbed me enough to write an article about it.

The thing that Hindus are failing to understand is their privilege.

I saw a photograph of a protestor from a #BlackLivesMatter carrying this placard which is the best explanation of a privilege:

Note that the protestor is not black himself. Yet he is supporting the movement. He is the perfect epitome of using privilege in the right way, something in which many Hindus are failing.

Just because this attack on Muslims or Dalits does not affect you personally, does not mean it is not a problem.

That former friend of mine could share that ‘go to Pakistan’ meme because she belongs to the privileged class whose sharing such vitriol have no consequences. And they would like to go on ignoring atrocities committed on minorities as well.

Do I really need to prove that Muslims in India are unsafe, discriminated against and literally attacked and killed?

This friend’s sister had once asked me, “What are you really facing as a Muslim, I mean come on, your life is perfect, why do you say you are discriminated?” I gave her several examples of me being personally discriminated against, but as you can imagine, I received no empathy in return.

When Aamir Khan suggests that he and his wife are concerned about the safety of their Muslim kids in India, he gets trolled endlessly for being an ‘anti-national’. His remarks became a national controversy and were discussed and misinterpreted by media houses and government officials for days, despite his several clarifications.

But Akshay Kumar proudly gets a Canadian citizenship and constantly boasts of his patriotism, and yet no one questions him. Someone actually did question, and watch his ridiculous and vague response here:

Not going as far as the Akhlaq story, just this week, this happened:

How is this not an attack on Muslims? And if influential people like Shabana Azmi claim that Muslims are not in good condition, then they get ridiculed, and their loyalty to the nation is questioned.

Just two days ago, in a temple in Uttrakhand, a fearless Sikh police officer, Gagandeep Singh, saved a young Muslim boy from being lynched to death by an angry Hindu mob. While he was hailed as a hero for his bravery, he also was hated because the life he saved was that of a Muslim.

Look at the remarks of the BJP, MLA:

My cousins live in Uttarakhand, and they tend to loiter around with their friends along rivers, mountains and yes, temples. Apparently, that deserved to be met with a mob lynching. And this is not it. My article on YKA’s Facebook timeline attracted some facepalm comments such as this one-

So, they turned the whole story around and are saying that the Muslim guy was harassing a Hindu girl.

How daft do you have to be to believe in something like that? Because if that were the case, would Gagandeep Singh the policeman, shield the Muslim guy or arrest him? Read what Gagandeep Singh had to say, here.

Still, don’t think Muslims are being targetted? How about this news story below-

“In Ranchi, around 20 Muslim families were forced to flee their homes in Koderma district of Jharkhand on Friday night. A mob attacked their homes around Iftar (breaking of fast) in the evening and assaulted several people including women. The mob also ransacked the mosque and assaulted the Muslims who were offering Maghrib prayer there.”

When you are Muslim, and a woman, your oppression is doubled.

Not aware what happened with the journalist, Rana Ayyub lately?

Muslims are constantly targetted and harassed, and yet if they utter a single word, they are called anti-nationals and told to ‘go-to-Pakistan’ (whoever coined this idiotic and ridiculous phrase will have a special place in hell).

Despite this public harassment, the privileged class of the majority wants to keep their eyes tightly shut. This rhetoric has become so pervasive; I see Muslims constantly self-policing because of this fear. Like when in the case of Kathua rape protests, I saw several Muslim protestors not going for protests simply because they were aware of the backlash they would receive for standing for a Muslim victim. This is the intensity of fear and self-policing.

And this ain’t confined to just Muslims.

You’d think Dalits won’t meet the same fate as Muslims. But you are wrong. A YKA writer shared this post about the death of Mukesh, who was beaten to death by iron rods.

Look at the comments under this: Some Mr Kunal Singh Tomar, as blinded by systemic oppression as he could be, is more interested that the reporting of the news mentioned the glaring fact that the victim of abuse was a Dalit man. I tried to respond to make some sense.

He still didn’t get. Instead, look how he calls systemic oppression a bookish concept when we are literally commenting on a post of discernible reality.

So, if casteism is an issue, where the hell do we talk about it? Because in any and every scenario, the moment a victim of oppression mentions caste, this is their fate.

Apart from hating Muslims and Dalits, hating women is also another beloved timepass of the privileged Indian men.

On the Facebook page of Youth Ki Awaaz, another article of mine was shared about the biases faced by working women.

Obviously, an article like this was bound to draw attention, but this I did not expect.

His response attracted a whopping 87 replies!

It takes a special kind of hatred and enormous time and effort to respond to every single person proving that women are not worthy of decent employment. I bet this person didn’t even bother to read the article because it was about the biases faced by working women and not their overall representation in an industry. He is just comparing apples and oranges here.

And then there are people like this who do not know the difference between foeticide and abortion, but still has the gumption to pass comments on the issue with zero hesitancy:

Several women attempted to explain to this constant troll that there is a difference in killing the girl child on purpose in favour of the male child and abortion rights where a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy based on her choice, regardless of the gender (usually way earlier than the gender is even identified). Nevertheless, he persisted.

What completely made me gave up was this comment on an article written by a fellow YKA writer:

If you still think

Muslims are safe,

Dalits are opportunists,

and Women are not oppressed, there is nothing I or anyone can say to educate you.

And the Cobra post sting operation is evidence that the Indian media, did exactly what Malcolm X warned the world about.

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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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