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A Man Died In Police Custody This Week. It Could’ve Been Me

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I have known about the sheer brutality of police atrocity for a long time now. And this is the first time I have come face-to-face with it. Immediately, I had this realisation that nothing will ever change until we want it to. Until we will it to happen. Until we fight for it!

For over the last two years, I have been associated with a party called Swarna Bharat Party. Ideologically speaking, we’re classic liberals. It means we want the abolition of taxes on imported goods that make them 2-3 times costlier. We support the selling of state-run companies and more. I am a keen follower, supporter and well-wisher of the party. I have personally known the founder for a long time, and we have spoken at lengths about different issues on several occasions.

We’re very active in Bhadohi district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. A small, semi-urban chaotic town with a sleepy, eerie countryside. Recently, a man belonging to a Pandit family went to the police station with his brother to resolve a domestic problem.

His brother was slapped, his left ear is still swollen, and he said he could “feel his brain shake”. Mr Pandit was then beaten too. They were then put in a cell. Shortly after, Mr Pandit fell ill, and his brother started screaming for help after he thought something was seriously wrong. The policemen did not let Mr Pandit out. After he fell unconscious and his brother suspected he might have actually DIED, the policemen still waited around before finally taking him to a government hospital.

Mr Pandit was pronounced dead. It is here that our party members and leaders, Rabi Kant Bharti and Mahesh Maurya came into the picture. They learnt about this incident and staged a protest in the town square demanding that action is taken against the police-in-charge of the station who slapped and assaulted both the brothers and is possibly responsible for Mr Pandit’s death for refusing him medical help.

Our brave volunteers had a sit-in and were determined to protest for at least a few days. On July 5, late in the night, the two leaders were taken into custody by the police, and nobody knew about it. I learnt about it through a Facebook page, and I’m in a city miles away from this incident! The party had no idea.

To put it plainly – they were abducted by the police; the ones we have supposedly entrusted with safeguarding us. The nearest police station is a kilometre away, but they were taken to a station 20 km away. They were charged with “breach of peace” and were then let go. We learnt about it 12 hrs later and literally spent the next few hours praying for their safety.

This could be me. It could be you. Or anybody we know and love. Those brothers ended up in jail for God-knows-what, and something silly and boring turned into a situation where we have a dead man and two abducted political leaders.

Have no doubt, we’re slaves. To make it clear – we pay thousands of crores as taxes to the government. The State taxes every item you purchase. To start off, you pay a ₹4 tax on your toothbrush.

Why do they tax us? The government only exists to protect our life and our freedom. Our freedom to protect our lives from assault and atrocity and our freedom to live and express ourselves however we wish. That is why we pay taxes.

To protect life and freedom, we need police and courts to work. And we need laws that guarantee and protect our rights, liberties and freedoms.

We have none of them in full measure today. Laws are cruel, and even these cruel laws are weakly enforced. The police behave like thugs because obviously, the public has never protested enough to make sure the police do what they must and not abuse us. The reason is that the police are never punished. They are legally allowed to carry weapons, but how often have people protested the misuse of those arms?

Simply because the police can jail, arrest, capture and attack people, they shouldn’t enforce their powers without any rhyme or reason.

There is just one solution to all of this. We must organise, protest and keep protesting until the police are held accountable. Until the courts function, and freedom is guaranteed by law. This is not a choice, but a duty.

Let’s think, and ACT against this brutality. It’s now or never. Liberty doesn’t come easy, even perishing in the struggle is fine, after all, we did what we must. Let’s fight, together. Or it could be any of us tomorrow. Let’s not play with our chances, and fight to ensure that we bring an end to police brutality.

Featured image used for representational purposes only.

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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, 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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