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The Internet Rebel: A New Religious Order?

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If the mid and late 20th century was the age of romantic left-leaning ideology for the urban educated youth, the 21st century seems to be the breeding ground for virtual statuses, virtual philosophising and virtual protest for the same group.

The internet age, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter, is changing the way our generation interacts with itself and with the society. We have developed a stunning new sense of tastes: likes, dislikes and super likes. And we make it a point to celebrate festivities ranging from rose day to chocolate day. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are the times when the world comes to know about our eternal parent-child bonds. An outing is no outing without a photo and a status. A sporting event is not complete without our expert commentary on not just the result of the event but on the many nuances leading to the result. We ran a marathon, the world must know. We ate this fish at a new place, the world must know. We travelled to reflect in secluded mountains, the world must know.

We are a new tribe; “I-Generation”- “I” for the internet and “I” because everything flows from an “I” perspective. The “I-Generation” is more committed to the cause of the virtual world than any social structure can fathom. Not a single day goes by without our active or passive participation in our new religious order. We may be walking, talking or riding a car but we make sure that we are faithful to our cause all the time.

And the luminary or the Brahmin of our group is the mysterious sect called the Internet Rebel or “I-Rebel”. The “I-Rebel” is not exactly a person or a virtual user; it is the metamorphosis members of the sect undergo as soon as it accesses the internet. And strangely enough, this cult has an opinion and an expertise on everything under the sun. There is another commonality in this elite group – they are very angry and want to change the status quo. And which better place to change the status quo than the internet. I have lost count of “I-Rebels” (friends and strangers) on the internet venting on monetary policies, foreign policy, the complicated Kashmir issue and even poverty alleviation programs. Interestingly, they also seem to have a prescient idea about which party or politician is best fitted to rule the country and why anyone who does think on those lines, are decaying outliers.

The “I-Rebel” argues with genuineness and resorts to facts, data, rumours and even epistemology to drive its point home. One can only appreciate the ability of the “I-Rebel” to pick up hearsay and propagate it to a point where the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. But the “I-Rebel” is not just about propaganda. It has virtually changed the value system in my group just by imagining things and typing them.   It calls for affirmative action against corruption, hates religious appeasement and would give a virtual voice to any cause that aligns to its ideology. Reservation, religion and politics are areas that unify most member of this privileged and enlightened sect within my group.  Ironically enough, the “I-Rebel” refuses to entertain any other point of view apart from their own. The bigger irony, for a group changing the status quo, is that it will simply be blind to events beyond its worldview.

The “I-Rebel” is present in all mundane places:  offices, colleges, universities, and even the doctor’s chamber. The other day, I happened to visit a doctor (who was busy with his laptop) to get a few shots of painkiller for my neck spasm. The complex maze of changing expression on his face told me that the “I-Rebel” was having trouble switching to the more sober mode of patient examination. The “I-Rebel” in the office sneaks into its battleground as soon as no one is around, fights for its cause and moves out, knowing well it will evoke many responses from its fellow comrades when it joins the battle later in the evening.

Although this luminous cult has a strong legion of ardent rebels, I sometimes fear for its future; a recent instance being a fellow comrade abandoning the cult altogether and bitingly suggesting that I was still part of an anarchic system.  Many of his friends were also deserting the cult.  However, more than the wavering of these elites, I am worried about the regular Joe from our religious order.  He is no more fighting the battle with the same intensity as he used to. His weekend rendezvous pictures are only being shared once in six months. His status has not been updated in three months. Last year, the same convert had a frequency of updates every single day and pictures every week. Alas, he has become a passive follower.

I also have another apprehension. The members of my faith are not just restless but tend to be bored by minute monotony or even the slight overdose of anything, be it cricket matches, going to office or supporting anti-corruption crusades. My brethren will run out of causes. At this rate, my new religious order will suffer a fate similar to the many barbaric cults that had so many followers before being shown the path to redemption.

However, right now my religious order is still holding up with many late members joining the battleground. But who are all these late entries: our parents! I am unsure how long this equilibrium will sustain in the family. It was so awkward the other day when my mother liked and shared my picture at a bar and called me in the evening to check what was I drinking?

But it is not yet the appropriate time to talk about doomsday. I am back from office after a long day and I desperately need a cause to fight.  Let me write a scathing comment on how inept a newspaper article is!

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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