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It’s Sheer Hypocrisy On Part Of The US To Complain About ‘Migrants’

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The ongoing immigration crisis knocking the door of the developed world is the second biggest crisis after the world wars. The last three decades of persistent war played out between the ‘civilisational forces’ of the west in the arena of west Asia has destroyed many countries. Millions of people have died and a sea of humanity has been left destitute.

The right-wing forces in the developed world, from Europe to America to East Asia, have found in this crisis a political opportunity. Call for heightened protectionism and sealing of borders are being made from electoral rallies. The victory of right-wing forces across the world in elections held in the past few years has reduced the chances of the crisis settling down.

If anything, the US policy that created a lot of furore, providing for separation of children from their family members at its border check posts with Mexico in order to create a deterrence for illegal migration is only the signs of the times to come.

It goes to show the power of human rights activists and the media that within two months after the policy was signed, it was revoked. But going by the news reports, much damage has already been done. Several families who got separated from their children may never meet again. The visuals and audio of children as young as three-month-old being kept in cages at child detention centres serve as eery reminders of the Holocaust. With the fear of losing a Republican majority in Congress that could set the ball rolling for Trump’s impeachment, the hyper-nationalism trumpet is not expected to die soon.

Migration is indispensable to human existence. It has the effect of replenishing human ingenuity. Since man was a primitive nomad, his needs have kept him on the move. The earliest homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers who went after their prey from place to place. As man discovered farming, the mechanism of shifting cultivation made him migrate to more fertile lands. After the more basic needs of food and shelter were secured, his curiosity about the world made him cross unfamiliar territories. He led expeditions for months through rough weather in search of new land and to test his traditional understanding about cosmology and geography. Thus, were born the Marco Polo, Columbus and Vasco da Gama of the world.

After repeated forays through the highs and lows of seas, he became a professional voyager. The richness of the discovered land made him establish trade ties with people he met. Curiosity followed trade. Trade accompanied intellectual exchange. The knowledge of the west met that of the east and vice versa. No wonder all the noted travellers of the past were considered philosophers in their own right. Their records made during their eventful journeys are amongst the earliest documentation of human knowledge. Megasthenes, Fahien, Huen Tsang, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun and numerous other philosophers through their scholarship provided an intellectual continuity from past to present. They left for us reservoirs of knowledge that hems through all the modern streams like arts, science, literature and philosophy.

Their works provide insight about the societies they paid visits to and cultures they came across. Travelling invariably was the only source of knowledge known to ancient man. It was said that must you travel to far off places like China for education. The knowledge of the east was highly regarded throughout the world. Ancient Indian seats of learning Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila were famous for their cosmopolitan outlook. Students from across the world sought universal education without having to face any institutional discrimination.

In the more recent history, the social churnings in Europe that started many a revolution and led to the foundation of modern-day societies were also inspired by the cross-cultural exchange. The same forces of migration that initially led to the subjugation of natives came into play to offer a strong resistance. The colonial history is replete with examples of writers, poets and barristers from across the colonies who came together to offer an intellectual critique of imperialism.

Gandhi’s African experience of struggle against apartheid was critical in shaping his resolve to fight colonialism. His travels across the length and breadth of the country in the first two years after returning to India familiarized him to specifics of colonial oppression. It was the same with Che Guevera, the Marxist revolutionary who travelled to far off places to understand the state of the countryside.

Apart from facilitating human subsistence, trade and commerce and intellectual exchange, migration was vital in the spread of religious ideologies. All the organised faiths that we practice today spread across the world thanks to the wandering seers and Sufis. The khanqahs that many such Sufis started in India stand till date as the true testament of humanity and brotherhood.

There is a verse in the Quran that talks about Fazeelat (success) in Safar (travel). Prophet Mohammad migrated from Mecca to Madinah (the event is called Hijrat (migration) and marks the beginning of the Hijri calendar, one which Muslims across the world follow) which saw the reversal of his fortunes. The idea of the world being a family was consistent in all religions of the time.

Vasudev Kutumbakam is oft-cited from Upanishads, a sacred book in Hinduism, to emphasise the virtues of universal brotherhood. The same was extolled by the faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Buddhism and Jainism that came up against the Brahmanical hegemony also advocated for the equality of man and love and affection for the entire world. Interestingly, this was the only spirit that ran common even among the non-believers of faith.

Once the more basic physiological and the intellectual needs were fulfilled, man became expansionist. In most cases, this was necessitated by his rising stock as was the case with the central Asian tribes. But this was not always the case. Equally powerful was his greed to be the ruler of territories where once he used to travel. The voyagers became conquerors and were soon followed by settlers. Europeans who had the early advantage of being proficient in sea trade became the dominant forces of loot and plunder. They split the world along the Papal line to carry on with their business of establishing global domination. What followed were indiscriminate wars between the native tribes and the invading forces.

The erosion of indigenous culture was the first most significant casualty, at the receiving end of which were the Native Americans in the west who inhabited the land mass across the Atlantic, the African tribes in the south and the Asian subcontinent in the east. The earliest settlers in North America were Europeans. They pushed the indigenous tribes to the deserts in the west from the most strategically located eastern coast. The injustice could be gauged from the fact that the Atlantic seaboard is amongst the most developed regions of the world today and the regions the natives inhabit amongst the most backward of places in America.

Syrian refugees

They advanced the practice of slavery in Africa to use them as labourers in their cotton plantations and to build railway lines to the nearest cities and ports.

It’s sheer thuggery when the white supremacists in the United States of America boastfully accuse the Mexicans and Columbians of being illegal immigrants. The Indian subcontinent had already been witness to earlier rounds of migration. In a historic judgement delivered in 2011, Justice Markandeya Katju said, “India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America… Over 92% of the people living in India are not the original inhabitants of India…The difference between North America and India is that North America is a country of new immigrants, where people came mainly from Europe over the last four to five hundred years, India is a country of old immigrants where people have been coming in for 10 thousand years or so.”

The indigenous tribes or the original inhabitants across the world have been universally classified as the common heritage of mankind. Yet it’s an irony that their struggle for recognition is lost in the din. The point is that humanity predates the idea of modern nation states. The story of human mobility is the history of humanity itself. Geographical boundaries of mountains, seas, valleys and deserts that naturally delimit parcels of land were the only check posts known to the ancient man. Right from being hunter-gatherers till the time this journey was about an intellectual exchange, man crossed these boundaries without fear or favour.

In his quest to organise people as nations, man delimited geography. But, for his cunning behaviour, he failed to preserve its sanctity. The state tried to instil in its people a sense of pride that came at the cost of hatred and animosity for others. It was a tacit attempt at curtailing the wisdom man had acquired over thousands of years that had made him humble about his own place in the world. The nations failed in ensuring dignified means of livelihood, equal distribution of resources and a just and liberal society.

This became the catalyst for another wave of migration. After the discovery of oil fields, west Asia became the centre of migration for people from the subcontinent. The massive development projects that transformed the Arabian desert to concrete blocks and shining steel structures were made possible by the subcontinent’s labourers.

The injustice meted out at the hands of the state through targeted acts like genocide and ethnic cleansing, mindless wars with invisible enemies and an imported idea of development left millions of people internally displaced and mass exodus from regions of conflict. Several others perished while trying to escape through the sea routes. Those who could afford to went into exile.

Migration came to be seen as the only ray of hope for the people in war zones, while the nations they were headed to saw them as a security threat. These same nations, however, were behind this prevailing crisis.

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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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