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History Is More Than The Propoganda That Politicians And Media Feed Us

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I am going to make a straight-up declaration that I am not a historian, heck!- I am not even a journalist. But I do take an active interest in all things history, and I’m going to tell you something so insane that it’ll blow your mind! Like, really!

Here is the red pill moment.

History Is Not Simple

Well, SIMPLE is how we seem to look at it, or are taught to look at it, but we are wrong. I started something on Instagram recently where the main intention was to squeeze the history of Mughal kings into one-minute information tablets. It required some basic reading, but nothing exceptionally scholastic- and my initial reactions were all about how we have been manipulated into believing things that are clearly not true.

Did you know that Akbar wore a Tilak and prohibited slaughter of animals twice a week? Or that Aurangzeb built more temples than he razed? Or that Babur was pretty cool with homosexuality and himself fell in love with a boy in Kabul, by his own admission?

This is the stuff we miss out when we are hell-bent on creating propaganda. Our one-dimensional view of history and tendency to fall for simple cause-effect narratives distorts our understanding to the point where we make a story about US vs THEM, and start believing in camps. But guess what, there is no black or white in history. As Nassim Taleb simply points out in his work Black Swan that ‘history is opaque’ and we cannot know what led to what.

For example, if we study history now, we will see a simple string of events that led to the Second World War. But a closer look at the documents will show you that even most Germans, Americans had no clue if the war was coming. The stock markets did not indicate any fear. Basically, ’30s people were as clueless about world politics as perhaps we are. So, if they did not think there were enough causes for a mass destructive event to occur, what makes us so sure about the history of the Second World War?

I think the answer lies in our love for weaving narratives. That’s why we think we have figured out why the world suffered the way it did whilst the reality doesn’t give two fucks about history books. Mix a lot of randomnesses mixed in with some inflammatory events- and you get a Nazi with weird sexual fetishes and lousy moustache.

Shivaji Maharaj in the court of Aurangzeb, by Dhurandhar. Image: Wikimedia Commons

So, what I’m really trying to drive at is this. When we yell “Tel Laga Lo Dabur Ka, Naam Mita Do Babur Ka”, because the guy ‘invaded’ our country, I don’t think we know the whole story. I don’t think we know that he was invited by a commander of the Indian King Ibrahim Lodi to attack and overthrow the emperor. I don’t think we know that he was really only interested in Kabul, not Delhi. I don’t think we know he actually just was on his way to CHINA.

There doesn’t seem to be too much HINDU HATRED once you actually go and read. Really, here. Get off your ass and read a bit.

When the politicians and some idiots on news take control of the historical narrative, your nose should smell what’s cooking (clue- it’s propaganda). And hey, I am not pointing fingers at one party or one media house. Whoever takes the power – controls the narrative, and then they do what party people and media people do. Creating narratives is easy, analysing is different.

You simply cannot forget that people who came before us, like Mughals or Lodis or Maharajas- ate, shat, fucked, masturbated just like all of us. So, it’s only natural that their histories will be as grey and complicated like our lives. Sure, some of them had their agendas (I don’t like Aurangzeb too much) but then so did everyone else.
Medieval times were just a Modi vs Gandhi vs Mayavati vs Shiv Sena vs Kejriwal vs whoever had an army.

Do not let the narratives of people with vested interests control your own narrative.

As Christopher Hitchens said,” Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more beauty, happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way…”.

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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.

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.”

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.

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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, 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.

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