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For How Long Can The Ram Mandir Politics Be An Electoral Agenda In Our Country?

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While the people of Kerala remember King Mahabali fondly once every year, the entire country is forced to remember Lord Ram painfully every five years. Ressurection of his name during elections has been a key aspect of our political system for more than two decades now. Oh, wait, this time Lord Ayyappa is being thrown into the fray as well. The question though that we have all been asking is, after more than two decades, why has the temple not been built yet? The NDA had served a full 5-year term under Vajpayee from 1999-2004. Now the present NDA government is about to complete five years. Both the times they won with the building of Ram temple as their major electoral agenda. Now they are going to make it their central issue for elections in 2019 as well. So where is this temple? Or rather, in the thousands or even a million years that has supposedly passed after the time of Ram, why was a temple never built in his name at Ayodhya when so many kings have built thousands of temples all over India and many of them in his name? Why now?

The answer to this question lies in how the concept of leadership works in the system. Let us consider the corporate sector as an example. What is the underlying concept of management? Solving problems. When we say people management, it essentially means making it easier for people to work which in turn means resolving problems that could hinder their work. So, management is about solving problems at the organisational level, and leadership is about solving problems at the business level. If all managers and leaders were constantly solving problems, every employee would be happy, and there would be zero attrition and zero employee turnover in every company. But why is such a world only in Utopia? Because not just the corporate but this world itself moves ahead on problems and not on solutions.

I have heard of excess crops and dairy products being destroyed in developed western countries. But there is also so much hunger and poverty in the other parts of the world. How difficult would it be to ensure that every human being on the planet has a place to stay and gets 3 square meals a day? It’s human psychology  – that we tend to always talk about and highlight problems. Some use problems to gain sympathy, and some use it to get power in their hands. Solutions are ends to problems. Once problems are solved, we cannot keep talking about them again and again. So, right from the top leadership to managers to bottom level employees, every one of them keeps talking about problems. This means we are all naturally inclined towards creating, sustaining and talking on about problems than getting rid of them.

This is exactly the disease that afflicts the Ayodhya issue as well. Ayodhya as Ramjanmabhoomi was first brought into prominence by Rajiv Gandhi with the intent of regaining popularity among the then receding Hindu vote bank of the Congress party. Then, after the Babri Masjid was opened for Hindus to pray, the entire nation stood and watched silently as the saffron-robed Hindu mobs brought down the mosque by defying the Supreme Court order to preserve its sanctity. Since then, the Court has been dragged into this issue, and the issue itself has waxed and waned with the onset and completion of every election.

We need to understand what would happen once the temple is built. Are the people vying, making so much noise and inciting violence in its name going to pray there every day? Once a year maybe? This is nothing more than just a political gimmick to polarise votes during elections. We need to understand and rise above petty politics at least now. The protesters at Sabarimala were all initially claimed as pilgrims, but that didn’t hold up once Amit Shah came to Kerala and extended support to the protestors.

What is worse and ridiculous is, we have the Ramayana handed down through generations for such a long period and there is no proof on the exact timeline the events of Ramayana unfolded. Tectonic plates keep shifting inside the earth’s crust, and earth’s land mass keeps changing, so we don’t know if the same land mass existed during the time of Ram. I cannot accept the fact that just because there is a place called Ayodhya now, Ram used to dwell there because we have not found any concrete proof of this. His palace and metropolis were supposedly the biggest to exist at that time. So where is it now?

So many ancient places have been dug out across the world so why not Ram’s palaces and city? A house near mine has been named Ayodhya so does that mean they should keep an idol of Lord Ram inside and make it a temple? He has been described as “ajanabahu” or someone whose hands extend beyond his knees. That is not a human (Homo Sapien) and not a monkey either – because monkeys and monkey Gods have been described in Ramayana. Depicting Hindu Gods in human form has confused and convoluted the concepts of Hinduism and the minds of successive generations of Hindus. I am not questioning the authenticity of his existence and the events described in Ramayana. So much may have been added into and removed from the storyline with time but the thread started from somewhere and for a reason. We should not allow our traditions and beliefs to blind us and let some amongst us to hold sway over our minds and emotions for their personal gains.

Ramayana essentially shows us how virtuosity can be upheld through every upheaval in life. Out of the nine avatars of Vishnu, Ram and Krishna are on top of the list, and there is a reason. We know about their entire lives because there are many lessons for us to learn, which is why entire books have been written about them. They were both mighty warriors, but they never considered themselves Godly and would loathe the fact that they are being worshipped in temples now. When I see people fully engrossed in their professional lives and say they are doing everything for their kids, I wonder if this is what the kids want. In the same vein, would Ram and Krishna want themselves to be worshipped in temples? How would Ram feel if he were to see what we are doing in his name? As our intelligence evolved and we became technologically advanced, we are supposed to understand them better. Are we evolving into progressive beings or regressive ones?

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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 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
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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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