This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saba. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

To My Generation: There Is No Such Thing As Being Apolitical Or ‘Neutral’

I’m sure many of us resent that one friend who ruins the comfortable atmosphere at a dinner in a fancy restaurant by starting to talk about the increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in India. Think about all the times you have shut off and stayed silent when someone around you is talking about demonetisation, or the Kerala floods, or mob lynchings, or the increased curbing of dissent recently.

I’m in finance/design/engineering/corporate law/tech (the list goes on), this has nothing to do with me” or “Bas kar yaar! Phirse shuru ho gayi…” or “Whatever, I’m going to get out of here and settle abroad soon…” . We have our own reasons for not taking active interest in pressing issues of the country.

The young Indian-urban middle and upper classes may think that they can exist in a world of coffee shops and malls, occasionally visit a monument or Chandni Chowk to get the “real Delhi feel” (or the equivalent in another metropolis of India), but the reality is that every single decision we make is political. You are never as apolitical (or ‘neutral’) as you wish you could be, politics follows all of us, regardless of our earnest desire to look the other way.

Let me clarify. Being political does not mean voting for a political party when elections come around. The connotation associated with ‘being political’ includes how we engage with everyday occurrences and place them in the context of a power structure.

For example, on a direct and tangible level, we are the consumers in a country where workers are rarely given minimum wages and other fundamental rights and dignities. Take our incessant shopping sprees for affordable clothes at high-end brand stores. The only reason the clothes are cheap is because of the often sub-human working conditions of the factory and sweatshop workers. Therefore, shopping is an extremely political move, because the source of goods is often exploitative. And no, slave-like working conditions is not an excuse forwell, at least they have jobs”.

So, what is my political position in this case? Do I try to engage and understand the exploitative economic structure at play? What choices can I make? Should I not buy from these stores? Should I buy minimally? Or do I say to myself “Chhor yaar it’s none of my business.

On a more abstract level, our apathy invisibilises injustice. Say, you don’t speak up when people around you say things that are sexist, Islamophobic, classist, casteist, homophobic and so on. You’re not actually apolitical or ‘neutral’, rather, you’re actively perpetuating these bigoted ideas by ignoring them. Speaking against unjust, stereotyped, or bigoted thinking disrupts the impunity with which people are spewing hatred these days. Even if you don’t have the energy to engage the person, it is not difficult to tell them that you don’t agree with them or that you find their statement offensive.

Maybe the reason we are not concerned with the numerous issues that our country (or our world for that matter) faces today – is that we are unable to identify with people whose lives are different from ours. We were too happy to celebrate the striking down of Section 377 on September 6 because we know people who are gay or queer. But we all lamented the ‘nuisance’ when lakhs of farmers protested to demand basic rights the day before – because we have no idea how to empathise with what they are going through.

I guess the real question is – have we decidedly become uninterested predators who sit high up on the food-chain of entitlement? Are those who are disenfranchised and sitting on the bottom rungs of the pyramid so much out of our realm of reality that we cannot even empathise with them, let alone feel enraged at the social order? I don’t mean that we should all become hermits and put a stop to our lives, because the majority of us are complicit in activities that oppress some or the other community, but the least we can do is try to engage, change the narrative and make things better.

As the elite of the younger generation, neither our school education nor our families have taught us to intermingle with the marginalised sections of the Indian society. I mean really… can you imagine how uncomfortable it would be to be friends with your domestic help’s daughter? She may be the same age, but not well-off enough to go to the pub on the weekends – which sums up our idea of fun.

It should not be acceptable for those of us already privileged by our birth into a middle-to-upper class family, to believe that it is enough that we’re ‘working hard’ towards our private sector careers. Working all day at a desk job, earning money, and always yearning for more upward mobility should not mean we abandon our inclination to discuss events/issues and understand the reason behind them critically. And even, god forbid, play a part in spreading awareness or making a difference.

I know the Indian education system may be all about rote learning, but have we really lost our ability to question? Or have we just lost our ability to care?

In the annals of history, unless we start turning our apathy around, our generation will be known for simply turning a blind eye to social issues, and looking away when injustice strikes. We will be known as the ones who sipped our 400 bucks coffee and watched, but never spoke up.


You must be to comment.

More from Saba

Similar Posts

By Ehsan Mohammadi

By Anuj Dahiya

By শঙ্কু_ পাগলা

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below