Rumours, Religious Beliefs And Fake News Are Fuelling Violence Against Non-Hindus

We often hear about cases of atrocities on people due to varieties of reasons. However, instances of mob lynching in the past few years have mostly stemmed out of the spread of rumours, suspicion, or religious beliefs.

If we see the events in which order they have happened, then it may be considered that some were the consequences of caste-based atrocities, some were due to religious belief, and the rest were due to fake news or rumours.

You must have heard about atrocities on Dalit boys in Una district of Gujrat, where they were stripped half-naked, tied to a vehicle and being beaten by a group of people with an iron rod. In the same state, a Dalit boy, who had posted a photo on his WhatsApp showing off a moustache and wrote ‘Dalit rocks’, was beaten and consequently killed by some people of so-called upper caste and succumbed to death. In another case, one Dalit boy had bought a horse; he used to ride that and also posted few pictures with that. A few days later he was also killed by some group of people who were also from the so-called upper caste. Last year similar news came from Kerala where one impoverished tribal man, who tried to steal some food from a shop, was beaten to death. Though he was a thief, who gave such power to the people to punish them in such a manner. There are numerous examples of atrocities on lower caste people across the country.

And if we see the other reasons for lynching, they were inspired by religious belief. Cow ‘the holy animal’, has been the talk of the town for many years in India. Hindu worship cows, use cow dung for fuel and cleaning in villages, it feeds us with milk. This is why India has the most number of cows in the world. We are also first in global milk production. But nowadays, cows have become a big reason for the killing of non-Hindus because they are supposed to be beef eater or engaged in the profession of running abattoirs. No doubt, we should respect the religious beliefs, but what if few people kill a person based on distrust or suspicion?

Especially Muslims and so-called lower caste were the victims of such incidents. Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujrat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh are the witness of such mishaps. After the death of people, it came in the light that some of them were taking their cattle to the fair for sale, some of them were in animal rearing, and one of them was travelling in the train with his family.

Recently, there were rumours about Bachcha Chor (who kidnaps kids) in many parts of our country. In Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, these fake news were circulated through social media platforms, and people started to live in fear. The fear and anger of these people, who fall form these rumours, convert into the rage when they see someone in such a suspicious situation. Five people of a family were killed in a mob attack by in Maharashtra because the villagers thought that they were kidnappers and it was just a rumour.

A majority of people are still affected by a kind of collective mentality which shows that inequality based on caste, religion and gender. It will take a long time to come out such toxic beliefs. Atrocities on dalits stem form an ideology of varna vyavastha that gave authority to so-called upper caste people to exploit Shudras (Dalits), who are considered to be untouchables. The caste system is widely criticised across the world, but caste complexity of Indian society is not ready to accept it. In present times, such ideas are again gaining popularity which will cause a significant loss of people’s belief in the world’s most tolerant religion, Hindu, as well as for the integrity of India. People may have different views on cow slaughtering, but we shouldn’t take laws in our hand to kill someone.

Once Mahatma Gandhi said that “I would not kill a human being for protecting a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious.”

In the era of global connectivity through the internet, social media has played a vital role. Since it is easily accessible to everyone, it has also become an easy way to spread rumours and fake news. To get more views and readers, sometimes people share any news, photos, video and links without thinking about whether it’s real or fake and social media platforms have become a big reason for such misuses. Even those who are well educated and scholars, sometimes they also make such mistakes and blindly trust on any such fake news. This results in the death of many innocents as we have seen in cases of Bachcha chor in Maharastra, religious tension or riot of West Bengal and many more.

If we want to establish our community and country peacefully, then preventing such incidents will be the first step.

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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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