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NRC Assam: Citizenship Bill Contradicts PM Modi’s Promise

Assam, one of the most serene states of Northeast India, has been in headlines for quite some time now over the controversial topic of National Register for Citizens (NRC) exercise. While the NRC exercise in itself drew several controversies, Citizenship Amendment Bill,2016, further aggravates the issue.

While a significant number of population and all the public organisation of Assam vehemently opposed the bill, the state government is still neutral and not cleared their stand regarding the bill. The most remarkable thing is that CM Sarbanand Sonowal, who was once the former leader of AASU and fought against the illegal migrant issue in high court during Assam Movement, became mute after attaining power. They are those people who declared and promised to get rid of illegal migrants in the state and talked about Jati, Mati, Veti. Even, the central government after winning election vowed that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have to flee from Assam with all their belongings.

The people of Assam trusted their words. For a long time, they have been facing hardships due to illegal migration from Bangladesh. They hoped that maybe this government would be able to cure this long-pending problem of the state. This was the main motto of the Assam Movement and Assam Accord 1985 where many people sacrificed their blood and lives. That movement is long gone now, and the hero of that movement turned into a minister and grabbed power. But the issue remains unaddressed.

After the losing trust from those politicians, Assamese had huge hopes from Sarbananda Sonowal, who was regarded as “Jatiyatabadi Nayak” of Assam. The party used these sentiments to gather votes and come to power. The public had hoped for many new changes and development, and the primary hope was to make Assam free from illegal settlers.

People awaited the promised ‘Acche Din’ by the PM, but their hopes were rewarded with Citizenship Amendment Bill,2016, that proposes to welcome Bangladeshi migrants( except Muslims) as Indian citizens. Consequently, the people of Assam want to ask PM Modi: “Do you want Assam of Assamese People or Assam of Foreigners?”.

Assam CM who vowed not to take any decision which could harm the identity and harmony in the state is now mute to give any comment regarding this matter. Delhi is geared up to introduce Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 during the winter parliament Winter Parliament. Once passed, the corresponding law would welcome as many as one crore illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam.

It’s a nightmare for the state that is still grappling with cores of illegal migrants. Disgruntled with the bill, many took to streets to vehemently stage protests against the proposed bill. The same people who once promised to protect the land and identity of the indigenous people have now turned blind to the issue. They forgot everything even their promise and their own identity. Now, party’s electoral strategies have replaced its commitments before the Assam assembly elections.

Although Sonowal’s stand is still not clear, Assamese people understand the meaning of this silence. He is on the sides of his political guru. The most notable question is “ Does including Hindu Bangladeshi in the state really protect our identity, religion, and culture?” Maybe they need to understand that Assamese is a term collaborated with all religion. Their Hindu-centric mentality will not work in Assam. Assamese people don’t discriminate people based on faith. This is the land of both Guru Shankardev and Ajan Peer. Maybe our CM forgot all the morals of Gurujana and his own identity, but the entire state is ready to fight this war to protect their identity and land. They will stand like a rock blocking the Citizenship Amendment Bill and will succeed.

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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.

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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.

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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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