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Who Are The Five Activists Arrested By The Pune Police?

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On August 28, 2018, the Pune police arrested five activists – Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira – in connection with a case related to the “conspiracy to kill PM Modi”. The police raided the houses of these activists and their relatives across five states as their names surfaced after the Bhima Koregaon Dalit protests in June.

Varavara Rao

Seventy-seven-year old Rao is an activist and public speaker from Telangana, who has been subject to many terms of imprisonment and attacks from the public and the state due to his revolutionary, anti-establishment voice and pro-naxal stand. He has been writing revolutionary poetry since 1957 and founded Srujana (creation), which is a forum for modern Telugu literature.

Rao was arrested by the state several times, most notably during the National Emergency in 1975, and was released only after the Janata Party government came into power.

Varavara Rao, along with other activists, was selected as an emissary twice (in 2001, 2005) by the then Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Peoples War to hold talks with the Andhra Pradesh government in order establish peace negotiations with naxalites. However, the party aborted both the rounds of negotiations midway in protest of the state-led encounters carried out on naxalites.

On August 28, 2018, Pune Police, along with local task force, raided Varavara Rao’s and his relatives’ houses in Hyderabad and arrested Rao, and detained his and his relatives’ phones and other electronic devices.


Sudha Bharadwaj

Bharadwaj is an independent civil rights lawyer and activist who has been working in Chhattisgarh for 29 years now. The 54-year-old is the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and the founder of Janhit, a lawyers collective. Bharadwaj is also associated with the late Shankar Guha Niyogi’s Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, a political party that was founded to uplift the people of the state. Bharadwaj was born in the USA and gave up her citizenship and returned to India at a very young age. She graduated from IIT-Kanpur with an integrated degree in Mathematics. After witnessing the poor condition of labour and working class in several states when she had been a student, Bharadwaj moved to Chhattisgarh to work toward providing better opportunities and working and living conditions to the people of Chhattisgarh who work in mines and plants. She is also passionate about and has worked towards the betterment of the human rights of tribals and Dalits in the state.

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra police put Bharadwaj put under house arrest, which will last until August 30 when she will be produced at the High Court.

Vernon Gonsalves

Gonsalves is a former professor of business organization in Mumbai, who had been arrested in 2007 and had been convicted under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act and Arms Act. While Gonsalves had been charged with around 20 cases earlier, he had been acquitted under 17 of them as the prosecution could not produce proper evidence.

Gonsalves was arrested by the Maharashtra police Tuesday from his house in Andheri, Mumbai.

Arun Ferreira

Who are the five activists arrested for alleged in Bhima KoregaonFerreira is a Mumbai-based human rights activist and lawyer. He is an alumnus of the St Xavier’s college. In 2007, Ferreira was detained for of being an alleged Naxal operative; however, he was later acquitted. He was charged in 11 cases and had been acquitted from all of them in 2011. Ferreira was part of the ‘Indian Association of People’s Lawyers and and the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.

On Tuesday, Ferreira was detained from his residence in Thane.

Gautam Navlakha

Navlakha is a civil rights activist and journalist who is an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly. He has been a convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and the secretary of People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR). Both Navlakha and Sudha Bharadwaj have earlier demanded for the repealing of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, citing that the law is being misused by the government to curb extremist activities instead of unlawful activities. Navlakha frequently visits Kashmir and writes on the issues relating to the state.

He was detained from his house in New Delhi on Tuesday.

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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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