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With Rising Communal Tension, What Does The Future Of Politics In India Look Like?

Yesterday, while I was riding my bike on the way back home from college, I saw a small banner of the Congress party on the ground. I was about two seconds away from crossing past the flag, but those two seconds gave me time to think about a year long battle which had been going in my mind from the day I understood the difference between the Left and Right. In those two seconds, many thoughts flashed through my mind and a state of dilemma spread over me. Either way, I was not going to run over the banner as it featured the famous tricolour, with which everyone (who is not anti-national) is familiar. In my school, my teachers had taught me to respect the tiranga. So I decided to turn my bike at an angle of 20 degrees, to act as a perfect patriotic Indian. Meanwhile my mind was struggling to choose a side to support. Why did I not run my bike over the flag on the Congress’ banner? I was about to become a political guru sitting on my lovely bike.

I thought of the results that the Congress had given to India, while ruling for many decades. What was there which deserve my praise? Was it the scams of the telecom industry, or remaining silent about the beheading of Indian soldiers on the border, or failed government programmes, or the legacy of the Gandhi family? What was there which could arouse the praise of a small student of a deprived state?

Then my mind shifted its energy towards Modi. I am talking about Modi instead of the BJP because his image is bigger than his party. BJP is now known by him.

I was no longer in mood to think about the achievements or failures of the ‘Modi janta party’. I was disturbed by the Kathua gang rape case. In classroom debates for and against the BJP, I had to now switch sides. Earlier I was happy to say that the BJP-led government had taken India to a new dimension; they were conducting experiments which I thought would bring some revolutionary changes.

election

A year ago I was confused when Yogi Adityanath was made the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Someone said that he was just like an albatross around Modi’s neck. A mahant with no political experience was made CM,  just because of his controversial comments against minorities.

I decided to forget this because I thought any government will make one or two mistakes, and so I let it be.

I was almost neutral until this Kathua rape case made headlines. I got to know that advocates of Kathua bar association had prevented the police from filing the charge sheet. They were shouting “Jai Shree Ram”, while doing so. “What the hell is this?” This was the first sentence in my mind that erupted.

They were acting just like Lord Ram had told them to stop the filing of a charge sheet, that Lord Ram supported the rape of an innocent child.

Under BJP rule, the slogan of group like these have become the slogans of many ignorant followers. They have start to think that by chanting these slogans, they have become superior to the judiciary of India. Lord Ram is there to protect them.

A few days ago, my native town, Aurangabad of Bihar state, was in the news because a riot took place on the occasion of Ram Navmi resulting in severe damage to the city, and people’s daily lives. There was also group of young boys who had no idea about the story of Ramayana, except that Bhagwan Ram had revolted against minorities.

From the time I have started reading newspapers and about the political situation in India, I developed an interest in politics. I was informed about things by my father, sometimes, on complicated issues. From coal-gate to the 2G scam, from the assets of Robert Vadra to Chara Ghotala in Lalu Raj, everything was at least related to corruption, nepotism, and the concentration of power in a few hands. But if you see the current scenario you might think about an existential crisis. You are not actually Constitutionally free. If you go against the establishment, you are termed as anti-national. People are framed with many charges like the attempted assassination of the prime minister of India.

There is a difference between anti national and anti-government and people need to understand those points. People in power label a few as anti-national, and the rest of the work is done by media houses.

As I started to swim deep in my pool of political thoughts I stopped when I noticed that my phone was ringing. It was my mom. She told me there was building tension between two communities in the city, and she wanted me to remain where I was.

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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 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.”

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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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