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Opinion: An Inclusive RSS Is A Myth

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS has caused a lot of debate in the past few days. Their sudden ‘inclusive’ stance has taken people by surprise, but some say it’s part of an ‘evolution’ that is taking place.

Veteran TV presenter, Karan Thapar, wrote for the Indian Express (September 21) asking the question – “has the RSS ground shifted?” The current head of the organisation, Mohan Bhagwat, said at the three-day-lecture event in Delhi, that the RSS has no issues with the Constitution and even quoted it here and there. He said that Hindutva includes Muslims; and yet, his predecessor, KS Sudarshan said that it doesn’t reflect our national ethos. He also agreed with Golwalkar, one of the forebears of this organisation, saying that there is nothing in the Constitution we can call our own. Sudarshan carried on and said that it had been imposed upon us. (Taken from an excerpt of a BBC HardTALK India interview conducted by Mr. Thapar).

I doubt that. How was it imposed on us? Did we not elect a constituent assembly? Did not the Drafting Committee, come out of there? Had the British compulsorily appointed someone to be a member? No. It was a group of people, from our own country. Then, why and how was it imposed?

As a member on a panel discussion hosted and moderated by Nidhi Razdan, Raghav Awasthi, a rising star of the RSS, said that the RSS and particularly ‘Guruji Golwalkar’, had been massively misunderstood on his thoughts on Muslims and that there is nothing in his book, “Bunch of Thoughts’, or anywhere else which implies that he hated Muslims.

On the Contrary, Golwalkar has said- “Has their old hostility and murderous mood come to a halt now? It would be suicidal to delude ourselves into believing that they have turned patriots overnight after the creation of Pakistan.” In his book, “We, or Our Nationhood Defined”, published in 1936, he said “Foreign races must lose their separate existence to merge into the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment- not even citizen’s rights.”

Now coming to Mr. Bhagwat – he has been telling people and Muslims explicitly that they are Hindus too, whose forefathers may have converted, and Hindutva includes them. GS Vaidya, an ideologue of the organisation, says that Muslims don’t have to forego the Quran to become Hindu, they just have to believe that Hinduism is their religion too.

Why should Mr. Bhagwat or Mr. Vaidya need to say so? Why must Muslims believe themselves to be Hindus? If their forefathers had converted and they have been following Islam’s postulates for the last two or three generations, they are as Muslim as being a Muslim can get! Why must Hindutva include them? Is it an approval of sorts? The sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic of India, already gives them that right!

Tavleen Singh writes, “Decades of hyper-nationalism mixed with a hatred of Muslims has given birth to a generation of Indians who spend their time hysterically venting their rage against Islam and Pakistan on social media.” She is absolutely right. I couldn’t agree more. Not only this, but she also says that RSS workers have admitted their hatred for Muslims to her and they want them to be driven out of the country because Muslims are “breeding like rabbits” and will soon outnumber Hindus. (IE Opinion, 23rd September)

I pose a question- If the RSS’s ideology was inclusive and supportive of the Muslims and other minorities, why would their workers think in such a way? After all, the workers are trained to have an ideology and work towards the realisation of the same.

In response to the Akhlaq lynching, a senior leader said: “At least Hindus are learning to fight back.” The fact that there were no Muslim candidates fielded by the BJP in a state where 19% of the population is Muslim; Union Minister of State, Jayant Sinha facilitated the convicts who were out on bail in Jharkhand’s Alimuddin Ansari lynching case; Senior BJP leader from UP, Vinay Katiyar saying that Muslims should not be living in this country and must go to Pakistan or Bangladesh and an MLA from Alwar, Rajasthan saying that people should not allow Muslims in their house, shows me only one thing – that these speeches of inclusiveness are hollow, and are just an election gimmick.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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