Student Activists, Wake Up! Destroying College Property Will Only Affect You Later

With several ‘disruptive’ protests going on against admission policies across various institutes, especially in Kolkata, I believe it is high time that certain words be said about it all. Recently, an online thread on Facebook interested me. What interested me, however, was not the exact cause and context of the conversation, but the data that came out of it.

Here’s two which I’d like to share:

  1. The students were accused of being ‘disruptive and their ways of protesting – defacing University walls with their messages, vandalizing public property – were bitterly spoken out against;
  2. Some students who publicly expressed their desire to come to the institution, only to grow up to become “political activists”, since a lot of famous politicians happen to be that institution’s alumni.

Let’s speak about them through analogies. With the Football World Cup just getting over, what better way than explaining it all through images of ‘The Beautiful Game’?

So, think of any football match you like. The ball is in possession of the opponent team, who’s swiftly and dexterously passing amongst themselves in an attack run, bringing it dangerously close to your unguarded goal. To defend against this imminent shot, there are of course, two solutions. You, a defender, can kick the ball out of the field or in desperation, commit a foul to stop the strikers in their tracks. Momentarily, of course, because depending on your actions, the location of the incident or the direction the ball got kicked into, you just awarded your opponents a throw-in, a free kick or a corner; worse still, a penalty solidifying that impeded hazard. So sooner or later, you again have your opponents celebrating a goal. You disrupted the game momentarily, only to have the same outcome moments later. Only if you’re extremely sly and lucky, with a hand of God to your aid, might you actually get away with it and thus, gain an upper hand against your contenders.

Hence, I’d argue, student politicians and ‘activists’ act. You disrupt campus life, ordinary activities and the system’s structure momentarily, locally for it to only have an impact on you, later on. Of course, later only if you’re alive and well, not after bastinado and bullets, a silenced, martyr.

The walls you deface with your angry messages may give you freedom, but they scare the living shit out of newcomers from schools. If you’re a job seeker, forget about good campus placements, because job descriptions explicitly request against political activists because come on, why’d they want someone with a free will and an agency, when all they want is just a dumb, ‘intelligent enough’, unquestioning, paid slave? And such vandalism? Well, that’s as good as throwing a shoe at your recruiter’s faces. If you’re an academic, forget decent MoUs because any representative from any institute will get immediately turned off seeing the mess you’ve made out of your campus. Do you really think they’d like the same happening there? Would you, if you were in their shoes? Finally, do you really believe that good teachers would really remain on your campus instead of seeking better pastures abroad if you fail to create the academic atmosphere they deserve? No, right? So unlike most things, please realise how it may often actually be ‘your fault’ itself.

Opponent 4, you 0. You still hope to win this way?

Of course, that’s not your only option. If as a team you’re organised and have trained together then it’s those situations that would erupt into your victory laps. Remember Belgium’s final goal against Japan in the round of 16? That’s how you change the course of a game. That’s the disruption of ‘disruptive innovation’. It’s that kind of disruption that actually changes social structures, a circumstance’s outcomes, life-styles and develops the world. It’s precisely that kind of disruption, my friends, that you lack in your actions, assuming you’re capable of it at all.

Think of the online media services you daily consume. YouTube and other media streaming services have given cable television proprietors and the censor boards a run for their money. Even popular faces in the industries have now shifted almost completely to Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and even LBRY. Alexandra Elbakyan’s SciHub (and yes, she’s a girl and a hacker, if you’re wondering because “Girls can’t Code” ), has given gluttonous bloodsuckers like Elsevier and similar for-profit journal publishers, the slaps they truly deserve. Library Genesis, Wikipedia, MOOCs and one Dark Web’s Library of Trantor has liberated and democratised knowledge through millions, if not billions of books and other media from the voracious book publishing houses to the masses. Open Source Movements, starting with Linux based Operating Systems, even Android, has proven serious competition for even the giants who’re finally starting bowing down. Media platforms as the one you’re reading this article on, along with Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Steem have disrupted the news industry to a point where selling newspapers is just irrelevant, meaning reading it is free for all now. Even the Internet itself is evolving to a become ever freer. And that’s the start; we’ve progressed so much that now, we’re on our way, warring against corporates creating Open Source Economies, that are Environmentally Sustainable & Circular, robust, decentralized & distributed, needing or even allowing no authoritarian control, whatsoever.

Distant dream of an Utopia? Well, trusted veterans of yore have acknowledged this, even welcomed this, against cancer we’re dealing with today.

Do you think that’s not disruption? Not protest? Not revolution? Say not no, for if you do, deafer than the dead alone, in our eyes, stand thou, for we too are ‘disruptors’, only not your current, kind.

Wake up dear reader, wake up from your slumber, puke out the poison from that tipsy mind for “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Break down the walls that prison your mind and venture into the beautiful world outside. And most importantly, let’s learn and labour with our able minds, hands and feet, aiding each other, create the Eden in which we yearn to live.

Some final notes as I conclude, having heard names railed against myself and my peers, I ask you, aren’t you supposed to be creatures far from those unquestionable priests, who cease dialogues, term you heretic and outcast anyone that chooses to differ? Aimed at those in pursuit of being professional politicians, please ask yourselves, how by becoming another of those brainless, bloodthirsty, bureaucrats, who caused your problem in their self-interest, for their survival, for their clan’s needs and desires, would you be of any help to the cause you fight for or to anyone at all, whatsoever, by replacing a well-oiled, perfectly functional cog in a contraption of death we name a nation?

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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.

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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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