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Contemporary Politics Is A Threat To Spirit Of Nationalism That United India Against British Raj

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Nationalism is a spirit that integrates people to collectively strive to achieve political independence, maintain political sovereignty, and participate in the process of nation-building. However, nationalism cannot be ignited without the existence of the nation. Then what is a nation? The Nation is not a state but a group of people who are bound together by a common religion, history, language, tradition, or common political interest. So, regardless of the nature of nation (culturally or politically, or both) patriotism or national consciousness is always a binding factor. However, the feature of national consciousness is not merely the sentiment of loyalty or affection for one’s nation but the aspiration to self-governance and achievement of statehood. Therefore, the concept of nation is attached with sovereignty and homeland, while nationalism is a quest for establishing a nation-state, where people have a right to self-determination for creating their political and legal system. Nationalism can never be extinct because it is a belief of the people which integrate them towards a common goal of building a strong, developed, and powerful nation. Even the rapid expansion of globalisation, transnational free market, and multiculturalism couldn’t weaken nationalist sentiments among the people.

Major revolutions in the history like the American revolution, the French revolution, the Russian revolution, the Indian independence movement, Iran’s Islamic revolution, among many others championed the spirit of nationalism. While nature and character may vary from country to country, national consciousness is the major force behind the establishment of an independent nation-state. For example, the French revolution reflected the liberal political nationalism where people integrated to remove inequality and class privileges and establish a nation-state which respects the sovereignty, self-determination, equality, liberty, and fraternity. Unlike French nationalism, Iran’s Islamic revolution reflected cultural nationalism where Shi’a people were bound together by sharing common ethnicity and religion in the quest for establishing an Islamic state and prevent western influence.

This article aims to find the true nature and character of Indian nationalism that how people’s nation came into existence?, and how Indian nationalism was ignited among people to achieve political independence? What was the nature and character of Indian nationalism? And, did Indian nationalism end after getting independence or is still ignited?

Indian independence movement demonstrated mass national movement against colonialism in pursuit to establish independent and sovereign nation-state, where people would have the right to self-determination and political equality. The nationalist sentiment to establish a sovereign, liberal, secular and democratic nation mobilised the people against the prolonged domination of colonial power. However, nationalism could never have been ignited among people without the existence of people’s nation. So, the main question is that how did people’s nation come into existence?

The vast population of India was extremely divided into diverse creeds, races, customs, colours, castes, sex, religions, languages, cultures, ethnicity, class, and regions. These divisions had been merged into social cleavages for generations leading to discrimination, inequality, backwardness, illiteracy, suppression, and atrocities. Then how did people integrate and mobilise despite deep diversities? And how did the feeling of brotherhood and belongingness ignite among people? People’s nation did not come itself but it was generated from two hundred year-long struggle against colonialism, where British Raj constantly tortured and suppressing the people, demoralised their cultures, manipulated their history, exploited resources excessively, and displaced people from their inherited land.

However, invoking nationalism among the people was a long and multi-staged process -cultural, social, and politcal nationalism. Cultural nationalism had been brought when there was rising of consciousness among the people towards their cultural heritage and common history. Socio-liberal nationalism had been brought when there was rising of awareness among people about the socioeconomic equality, freedom, fraternity, justice, morality, and welfare. This collective consciousness integrated people to launch Non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement against divide and rule policies and arbitrary and brutal laws of the British Raj. And, finally political nationalism had been brought when there was rising of consciousness among the people about the political equality, self-determination and sovereignty. This consciousness integrated and mobilised the masses, irrespective of their caste, sex class, and religion, during the  Quit India movement. After all, the Indian nation came into existence where people were bound together by sharing a common interest, shared history, geography and rich heritage culture. And their nationalism had been ignited to achieve political independence, establish a sovereign, secular, social, liberal, and democratic nation-state. So, the nature and character of Indian nationalism were secular, socio-liberal and political rather than cultural.

Indian national movement did not only provide an independent Indian nation-state but also had a great contribution to ignite nationhood among people and unite them. Indian national movement put a foundation of a nation where the people were bound together by shared interests. These shared interests were incorporated in the Indian constitution after getting independence. So, the overall goals of the nation-state were to maintain sovereignty, territorial integrity, and give equal opportunity to everyone to participate in the mainstream of socio-economic and political development of the nation. These goals are nothing but the nationalism of the nation-state because after getting independence, the real nationalism ignited among the people was to make our Indian country a world powerful and competitive nation. That’s why nationalism can never end as long as a nation existed.

However, Indian nationalism now seems to be weak because of rising internal power politics, which is creating false nationalism and breaking the unity of the people in pursuit of self-interest and self-serving.

Generally, the democracy plays a multidimensional role. In the legislative sphere, it is closely linked to the exercise of authority, the right of a person or institution to make decision on behalf of the nation and community interests. On the public affair front, it is closely linked with the public bodies and institution for the national good. And, on the social sphere, it takes up the responsibility to resolve the conflict of diverse interests and encourage cooperation through negotiation and distribution of resources and wealth to the masses and also empower them through providing good education, health facilities, clean environment, accountable government, and socio-economic opportunities. Democratic politics is a foundation to maintain unity and integrity among the nation. It provides equal opportunity to individuals, civil societies, intellectuals, media, civil servants, and politicians to participate in the process of nation-building.

However, this dream is breaking in the contemporary politics, where government decisions are made to serve their political interests rather than the nation and mass interest. The political system is now influenced by identity politics, power politics, corporate politics, and corrupt politics. Unfortunately, these immoral conducts are deep-rooted in contemporary politics leading to suppression of citizens, stark inequality, discrimination and exploitation, violation of law and constitution, etc. This defeats the basic foundation of nationalism.

The basic foundation of nationalism is dependant upon the existence of the nation, and a nation is nothing but a union of the people. It is our duty to stop these political forces that are attempting to break our unity. The principle of liberal democracy not only provide a proper mechanism for the formation of legitimate government but also provide a meaningful platform for the people participating in political activity, public activity and decision making. The principle of liberal democracy ensures free, fair and competitive election with the active participation of citizens. Right to freedom of speech and expression, Right to Information(RTI) etc, are the mechanism that ensures public accountability. Active debates, and arguments keep the ruling party in check. Political participation is not confined only to raise demand, but it also scrutinizes whole government processes. The political system is nothing but an instrument to fulfil the need of the nation and society. If we want reform in entire politics then we must understand our importance in politics. We must participate in decision making either directly or indirectly. Political participation automatic makes government responsible, accountable which ensures good governance. Only people participation can provide good governance. A responsible government would take decisions just for the nation and public interest, and this would help to curb inequality, disparities and social vulnerabilities.

If unity is broken, the nation will break, and if the nation breaks, the nationalism would be weakened, if nationalism is weakened, then the whole dream of making India a great and powerful country will break. This country belongs to every community, and nobody has a right to call someone anti-national. Because the Nationalism is a spirit of every citizen, who loves this country and want to make India a great nation in the world.

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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.

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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.”

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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