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Socialism Or Symbolism: Akhilesh Yadav Rides SP’s Bicycle To New Delhi

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A brigade of socialist workers launched a bicycle march, ‘Saamajik Nyay aur Vikas Yatra’,  from UP’s Ghazipur to New Delhi, on August 28. A large number of Samajwadi Party workers would be riding bicycles through the villages, towns, and cities of UP to raise awareness on critical issues like attempts to dilute OBC and SC/ST reservation, EVM fraud, mob lynching, unemployment, rising inequality, crimes against women, among many others.

This contingent of youths embarked on a two-wheel journey from Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh and so far have addressed more than a hundred public meetings en route. Their caravan will touch down in the national capital on September 23 2018.

A couple of days ago they reached their cherished destination, Kannauj, and landed on Lucknow-Agra Expressway. The socialist workers arranged themselves to create an image of A2Y, an acronym of their cherished leadership Akhilesh Yadav. Seven years ago, Akhilesh Yadav had popularised the symbol by making a refined philosophical statement that he wrote down on his BBM status: ‘A2Y because Nobody is Perfect’.

One of the senior members of the ‘yatra’ Abhishek Yadav has been leading an entourage of over 200 cyclists. The number swells to thousands at each stops in the journey with committed local members of SP joining the march.

When they arrived in the national model village of Saifai, the birthplace of socialist patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and the current national president and former UP CM Akhilesh, they received a tremendous boost in the presence of their beloved leader.

Akhilesh Yadav himself travelled from Lucknow to flag off the remaining leg of the ‘Yatra’. Veteran leader and general secretary Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav and young parliamentarian from Badayun Dharmendra were also present.

In Safai, Akhilesh Yadav claimed that ‘there would be no elections in the future if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) return to power in 2019’.

“The central government in Delhi is trying to kill democracy. Not just us, but many social thinkers and their friends are saying that if the BJP is voted back to power in 2019, then democracy might not be alive to breathe in the country. Future elections would be a pipedream. So the entire Opposition has just one chance to save democracy in 2019. Looking at the statements made by BJP leaders and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it seems there is no one more backward than him,” said Akhilesh Yadav.

“PM Modi always claims that he comes from a backward community. If he is backward, then we are definitely more backward than him. But I am more forward than BJP people in my thoughts and achievements. I am a progressive Backward if you factor in caste location,” he added.

Akhilesh further charged up the massive gathering of sympathisers and said, “The BJP has poisoned the atmosphere of the country by indulging in caste politics. People have seen the ‘Double Engine’ BJP governments and their shameful failure in delivering good governance.”

“2019 is “an exam, and if we fail in our exam, then we must look for a naali (drain) and kadhai as we will have to fry pakodas together then.”

Socialist leader also took a jibe at the recent statement of the UP CM Yogi Adityanath, where he asked farmers to grow other crops because the excessive production of sugarcane can cause diabetes.
“Our chief minister is also an amazing doctor, without any kind of tests he can tell you that diabetes is caused by excessive sugarcane produce,” said Akhilesh Yadav.

Cycling campaigns have been a trademark of the Samajwadi Party’s social justice, diversity, and representation agenda discourse.

In the 1980s and 90s, it was social justice advocate and a legendary champion of diversity Manyavar Kanshi Ram. His legacy was taken forward by Mulayam Singh Yadav who rode the bicycle for spreading awareness among subalterns of the country, and now it is Akhilesh Yadav who has become a byword for the two-wheel campaign.

The political landscape of India would always remember these titans for their large-scale social and political exercise in the heat and dust of bumpy roads and farmlands.

In India, over the past decade or so, the bicycle has become synonymous with Akhilesh Yadav and his legion of followers and fans.

For Samajwadi Party and its national president Akhilesh Yadav, the bicycle is not just an electoral symbol. Over the years, it has become a two-wheel vehicle of change. It has become the most potent symbol of socialism in the country where one billion people are wrestling with the resurgent evils of capitalism and caste feudalism.

In Uttar Pradesh of India, ‘Tipu’, the nickname of Akhilesh Yadav, has inspired tens of thousands of his party’s footsoldiers to cycle for social justice, from Ghazipur to New Delhi, covering more than 800 kilometres on the pedal.

This march is quite a feat by all standard, and all the credit goes to Abhishek Yadav, an eastern UP socialist worker and a famous alumnus of Allahabad University who hogged the limelight in 2011 for black-flagging a fleet of Rahul Gandhi in Allahabad.

He showed the way to the current focus group of socialist workers in values and impact of non-violent protest, of course, at the call of his top leadership.

He showed the way to the current focus group of socialist workers in values and impact of non-violent protest, of course, at the call of his top leadership.

Many students leaders like Ram Karan Nirmal, Chandra Shekhar Chaudhary, Adeel Hamza Sahil, Raghvendra, Ashray Gupta, Shailendra Shailender Pratap Singh, AK Singh Yadav Sintu, among many others are actively involved in making this march for social justice successful.

Even trenchant critics agree with the fact that Akhilesh Yadav has pioneered a new wave of cycling movement in Uttar Pradesh.

His covetousness for the campaign vehicle inspired him to build bicycle track in many cities, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra and Etawa.

Such was the scale of his passion that the young leader built the largest bicycle highway of India circumnavigating ravines of Chambal in his home district.

What personal attributes does it take to be a great leader, of an industry, institution or a government?

Leadership is not about having a pretty face like Justin Trudeau or being a PhD like Angela Merkel or a billionaire like Donald Trump.

It’s also not about oratory skills of Hitler or belonging to a dynasty as Indira Gandhi or of humble beginnings as Narendra Modi or about enduring solitary confinement like Nelson Mandela. And, and it’s also not about winning a late-term in the 90s like Mahathir Mohammad.

Success is not about reaching the summit (the political position) but staying there in honour and respect. Success is not about winning elections for the sake of it but of self-actualisation.

The first and foremost quality of a good leader is to be fair and objective. A leader does not take what is similar to his views as facts and base his decisions on that.

Akhilesh Yadav is one such leader who isn’t blinded with a self-serving bias. He is a leader who does not stand for his specific religious or political views. His personal beliefs are his private matters.

He values personal and public beliefs of all caste and sects. Once he assumes the political role, his belief spectrum expands to includes everyone’s beliefs. He is not egoistic and power hungry. He will not compromise on truth to win accolades.

He believes in what is true, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s not about pleasing people at the cost of manipulating or misguiding the public.

Akhilesh is focused on specific, achievable, reasonable, and measurable goals. He is looking for the welfare of the generations and not temporary fixes.

He leads by example, helps people understand that they are accountable for their society and its outcome. Akhilesh does not make lofty promises but realistic ones.

Akhilesh makes a sustainable promise and is a man of his words. He is honest even if it does not get approval. People know where they are standing with an authentic leader. Leaders build bridges, not erect walls. He is a natural mediator rather than one that creates conflict, tension, and separation.

Standing up for his beliefs, the young socialist leader is steadfast in opposing the ideology of hate and division, BJP-RSS practices with full force nowadays.

He is inspiring many with his meaningful and straightforward philosophy of socialism. He stands for new age socialism with a cocktail of two potent poles, proportional representation of the deprived, as well as Temple for Brahmanical doctrine, idolising ancient mythological deity Vishnu.

Akhilesh Yadav can become a powerful symbol of resistance against fascist politics of the BJP and caste inequality in India. His moves and countermoves are followed with great interest by media and masses alike.

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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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