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Amidst Urban Naxals And Gaurakshaks, India Is Losing Track Of Real Issues

चल क्या रहा है?

Michelet wrote in 1830 “With the world began a war, which will only end with the world: the war of man against nature, of spirit against matter, of Liberty against fatality. History is nothing other than a record of this interminable struggle.”

September 6, 2017, Tilak Road,  Pune

Gauri Lankesh, senior journalist from Karnataka, was shot dead outside her Bangalore home on the eve of September 5, 2017 for expressing her dissenting views in her newspaper, The Gauri Lankesh Patrike. This was a self run entity which didn’t believe in selling out space to advertisements, choosing to rely solely on the newsstand sales generated.

Ms. Lankesh was also an effective political organizer with the ability to bring together social and political groups — Dalits, indigenous tribals, leftists, Muslims and others — opposed to the Hindu nationalist attempts to transform India into a country primarily for the Hindus.

According to William Randolph, journalism is something somebody doesn’t want printed, all else is advertising. The Patrike was in Kannada, the language of the people. That is why she had to be silenced. Sales had declined over the previous year as the reader base mainly compromised of rural folks from towns and villages. The section of society that had been hit hardest by the demonetisation debacle that upturned the informal sector driven economy.

Post demonetisation our GDP fell from a high of 8.1% to a low of 5.7%. Every percent of GDP lost is money that cannot be gained back through transactions; only regenerated through profits, effectively setting the country back by at least 5 years without even taking into account the loss of life and the hardships that the real citizens of India had to face. The daily wage earner who had no one to employ him, Tamilian farmers protesting in Delhi for water, the people who had to stand in ATM lines stretching kilometers for their own money.

Steve Forbes, economist and editor of the Forbes magazine calls India the most extreme and destructive example of the anti cash fad currently sweeping the economic sector, such a move is only about making the Government have more control over its citizens personal lives. He adds that India has not only immorally harmed its own citizens but also set a bad example for the world.

Raghuram Rajan, ex Governor Reserve Bank Of India, says the Government never consulted him before the implementation of such a scheme and if they had he would have never approved of it. In the meantime, BJP National President Amit Shah declared movable assets worth Rs 19.01 crore and immovable properties worth Rs 15.30 crore – a total of Rs 34.31 crore. This was a hefty jump from his 2012 affidavit when he had declared movable assets worth Rs 1.90 crore and immovable properties worth Rs 6.63 crore.

“Demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. They will promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. They’ll promise to clean up corruption, and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability, and try to change the rules to entrench their power. And they appeal to racial Nationalism and that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all, sounds familiar?” — Barack Obama, September 2018.

Events like these really make us question evolution. Gauri Lankesh, like Dabholkar and Kalburgi before her, was shot for holding views that didn’t align with the majority’s, to put it in the broadest terms possible. What good are the sacrifices that were made by our freedom fighters when we don’t have the freedom to articulate what we feel in our own country about our own people. A democracy is by the people of the people and for the people, to uphold opposing views, to argue and reason them out using the freedom of speech form the cornerstone of any democracy.

In 2014, the General Elections in India saw the Far or Alt right take centre stage through the BJP and its ideological parent, the self proclaimed “non-political” body, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). This is a “Godse Zindabad” chanting Hindu Nationalistic organization who along with its affiliates, various Hindutva toting alliances like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Yuva Vahini, collectively form the Sangh Parivar.

Since 2014 the Sangh has made various moves to change the nature of higher education institutions which don’t necessarily align with their nationalistic ideology. JNU, AMU, Ramjas and most recently Lucknow University have all faced political interference in their administrative functioning as well as attacks by external elements on students peacefully protesting in their college, watched on by the police. While protesting a fee hike (of upto 1000%), students of Punjab University were beaten up by the police forces, locked away and then charged with crimes as serious as sedition.

Hindu Nationalism has also seen the rise of vigilantes called “Gaurakshaks” (cow protectors), who wield their own form of mob violence and justice. Gaurakshaks have become embroiled in various lynching cases centered around alleged transportation of cow meat, and have usually walked away free. There has been a sharp but expected backlash by certain sections of the Muslim population as well. The term “lynching” is not present in the Indian Constitution. It seems that we have become a nation whose leaders can’t have a political debate about the most basic of things without religion and propaganda polarizing them and then us.

Renowned Greek Economist Yanis Varoufakis is of the opinion that it is not just our leaders who have lost the values that made them great but the political sphere itself, which has lost most of its actual power to the financial one. To a point where Democracy itself might be just a facade for capitalism to thrive. A Kakistocracy, in essence.

Where Arnab Goswami is the voice of reason for many, where Nirav Modi can be pictured with PM Modi at the Davos summit days after scamming the State banks for thousands of Crores and also where the Nation’s Finance Budget can be rammed through the parliament in thirty minutes.

This Budget gives all political parties the freedom to no longer declare the source of their foreign funding, all the way back to 1971, but the common man is coaxed by Finance minister no less to link his personal details with the information leaking Aadhar card system even after the Judiciary declares it unconstitutional.

This particular observation by Dr. Varoufakis can be seen mirrored in so many other controversies that have taken place recently. Happenings at Thoothukuddi (Tuticorin) earlier this year where protesters were shot by Police Snipers outside the Vedanta Copper plant that has been making their land and water toxic, the murkiness over the Rafale deal, declaration of Jio University as an institution of eminence even before its establishment and the Cobrapost Stings which caught various media houses, including Times of India, nonchalantly taking money from pseudo political lobbyists to spread fake news.

With politicians and business houses owning major portions in various news networks, like Republic TV owned by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, people end up hearing and understanding events as the media house wishes them to be interpreted. The current era of fake news and blatant lying in the news has been confirmed as a global phenomenon and termed as Post Truth.

Humanity has reached a tipping point that will have far reaching effects in time. How we act now decides how we are treated in the future. There is an eminent clash between futurism and traditionalism as the conventional structures around us decay, catalyzed by the tech revolution and the internet. To rise above divisive agendas there is an important need to align on issues that are of utmost important for the survival of the human race.

Healthcare for everyone, state sponsored primary and secondary education, a revamped relevant legal system and a well implemented environmental policy over Propaganda, vanity projects and God statues. It is when politicians are unable to answer questions like “Why is there a shortage of clean drinking water?” that propaganda to the tune of “urban naxals” and “gaurakshaks” is needed to keep voters polarized enough that they forget about the real issues created by capitalism and corruption.

The Quasi Fascism thus created is a product of failing Capitalism. Even with increasing per capita wealth, inequality is at an all time high all around the world. Such chaos occurs when the old is dying and the new is yet to take form. The turbulence of these times give greater significance to our decisions as the first generation to grow up with the Internet. We get the leaders we deserve, its just a reflection of our values.

There are clear lines now, between people who believe all humans are equal and others who think that one race or one religion should be treated differently from others. Between companies that oppress and people who are actively trying to counter that oppression.

If you don’t believe in intolerance then now is the time to go out and stand up against discrimination, protest non-violently, and make our presence actually felt beyond Facebook likes against forces that want to divide us on the basis of man made constructs.

The removal of Section 377 and farmer protests in Bombay taught us that our strength lies in the numbers that show up on the streets. It is time to leave the comfort of our homes and actually, literally, stand up for the values that are dear to us. There are no two perspectives around Human Rights.

The quote at the beginning of this article is there in the first few pages of MN Roy’s magnum opus, “Reason, Romanticism and Revolution”. Roy was a freethinker, a communist and by the end of his life a radical humanist who had predicted the rise of Indian Fascism in the 1950s. I had just started reading this piece of art by him when the news of Gauri Lankesk’s cold blooded murder struck the country.

The Socialist Party (December 1917), which was converted into the Communist Party of Mexico in 1919 (the first Communist Party outside Russia) was started by MN Roy. He also acted as Russia’s Aide to China, was commissioned by Lenin to prepare the east for a revolution and started the communist party of India in Tashkent (1920).

There is still a private nightclub in Mexico called the MN Roy at the place where he used to live and work but not a passing reference in all the history that is taught to us in school. Do they really want us to know, to interpret, to question? Or are our generations being dumbed down to make “better voters”?

In her death Gauri Lankesh reminded us how to be fearless again. She didn’t look to the world for approval. She believed what she believed in and she worked hard against all odds to spread awareness. She was shot to send a message. Agree to live by our sensibilities or you won’t be.

I feel we as a country have failed people like her. The oppression of the intellectual society in India has to stop. The brain drain has never been greater and it is about time that we as a society started looking at the right role models for direction. For every Godse and Jarnail we have enlightened souls like Sri Aurobindo and Jiddu Krishnamurthy who have endowed us with a wealth of wisdom.

So I write today, for Gauri Lankesh, for her workand fight won’t go down in vain. Voices will rise, words will be written and opinions will be expressed. The pen will always be mightier than the sword. India is a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and no political institution or party can obfuscate its identity.

You must be to comment.
  1. Anirban Dutta

    I do think an erudite article is written by you.Pen is mightier than sword but a country when speaking anything against the corrupt political establishment is ‘anti-national’ how can we still remain a democracy ? I want to know it from you.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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
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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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