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

Rediscovering Protest Culture In Bangalore (And Coming To Terms With Its People)

When I got the Cooke Town residents’ WhatsApp forward to join a protest against the rape and murder in Kathua, I felt glad(for a whole two minutes before the scepticism set in) that someone had taken the initiative. For days, the Hindu Ekta Manch had been grating on my nerves and now finally, there was a chance to do something about it. Something that didn’t involve Bangalore’s Town Hall.

As grand a backdrop as it may be for protests, with its towering magnificence and striking Smithsonian-style pillars, I was always unsure of myself at Town Hall. Tucked neatly away from the city crowds, it’s placed where even the traffic cannot pause for more than 60 seconds. I always thought protests are about spreading awareness, reaching out to other people, making them stop and ask what’s going on. But at Town Hall, the only others there are the media.

If you count on them to spread the word for you, the numbers that show up and the significance of the organising parties of the protest determine which page you make it to. The sloganeering is for them to quote, the posters for them to photograph, the reach for them to decide. Protest at Town Hall and people will know about it only after you’re done.

I’ve heard people judge Bangalore’s protests in many ways. Based on the number of Kannada posters versus the number of English ones, the number of women speakers versus men, red flags versus blue, political parties versus NGOs. It is not the cause but the approach that’s problematic, they say. My scepticism stems from the same thinking.

The political agenda behind the angry sloganeering of students is just as scary as the indifference behind casual conversation of Cooke Towners at a supposedly silent protest. “Death to rapists” yell the very same boys who, as a friend pointed out, whistle at girls on the street and have probably never thought about capital punishment before. “What ya, just drop in for dinner one of these days,” laughs a woman on Davis road while the man behind her discusses how to best get rid of fleas on Golden Retrievers. They both hold posters that scream “Justice For Kathua!”

I blink.

On September 5, Gauri Lankesh was murdered outside her house in Bangalore. On September 12, over 150 organisations came together to protest, leading a massive rally from the Central Railway Station to Central Grounds. Everybody came, despite their differences. It felt incredible to be at the ‘I Am Gauri‘ protest, it inspired hope, not scepticism. The incident was undoubtedly a wake-up call but more importantly, those who organised the rally were some of India’s biggest socio-political activists – journalists, celebrities, lawyers, politicians and students who had the resources to mobilise such large, diverse numbers.

People stage a protest against the killing of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, at Town Hall in Bengaluru. Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

But sometimes, those who want to protest aren’t activists.

I grew up among people who discussed politics but never actively engaged with it. While everyone agreed on the need for awareness, ‘keep safe distance’ was the unspoken policy. But distance and awareness work against each other. Awareness pushes you towards action while distance ties you down until all that you’re left with is helplessness and cynicism. College woke me up to this and somewhere in my second year I told Amma, “Hey ma, forget law or journalism, I want to be an activist.”

Then, just a few months ago, I came across some old pamphlets from one of Bangalore’s prominent activist groups. I found them while sifting through material at an ongoing archival project on the city’s queer movement — pamphlets on everything from the rape and murder of Bhanwari Devi to the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima. They were part of the archive because the same group that made them also helped protest against Section 377.

“You come for ours, we’ll come for yours” — from women’s rights in Rajasthan to ‘foreign invasion’ of multinational companies to student rights to GST on handicrafts, it was the usual suspects who organise protests against every kind of issue. I understand that it is not easy to choose one issue over the other, I get that these issues are not in fact, unrelated. But somehow, it felt like it was one fixed group of people who had taken on the role of protesting. As if it was a profession in itself.

It dawned on me then that instead of it being law or activism, it made sense for it to be law and activism. Or architect and activist, IT professional and activist, resident of the neighbourhood and activist. So when I saw people coming together to protest against the rape and murder of the Kathua victim that day, I was amazed to see that very few people there considered themselves full-time activists. Leaderless, the protest was a bit clumsy, but maybe that’s the point. That even those who’ve never protested before, are now protesting.

When I interviewed people after the ‘Not In My Name’ protests last year, one of the things I heard was “Why leave it to the unions to do everything?” And yes, that’s absolutely it! Unions were formed to act as our representatives, but increasingly, we are relying on them and the NGOs to oppose on our behalves while we just go on with our lives. When I zoom out a little to peer with crossed fingers into the long run, I cannot help but think that if people are now ready to protest for themselves, then maybe they’ll soon be ready to take the next steps too. Be it meeting the HR managers of their company, or the heads of their departments, or the sub-inspectors of their districts; be it supporting formal complaints or organising discussions and workshops or filing Public Interest Litigations.

#MeToo was not initiated by a women’s rights organisation and the women who made it a movement never had to identify as feminists or leftists or belonging to the ‘old school’. It was the problem that people identified with, not the necessarily the approach alone. As writer Moira Donegan describes, the #MeToo movement was universal without being uniform and on a much smaller scale, that’s what ‘My Street My Protest’ is too. Sprinkled across the city, people didn’t stand as one but they stood all the same.

When people asked what Bangalore is famous for, I used to think of the bull temple and then shake my head like an 80-year-old cynic and say, “Apathy.” I still like saying that, but it doesn’t come as easily anymore. I find myself thinking twice.

You must be to comment.

More from Shalom Gauri

Similar Posts

By Prasun Goswami

By Ankita Marwaha

By shakeel ahmad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below