‘What Congress Desperately Needs To Work Towards Is A Sangh Mukt Bharat’

Much has been discussed in mainstream media about BJP’s war cry of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’, the popular slogan that itself occupies the position of nothing more than a footnote in the BJP’s larger scheme of a Hindu Rashtra. However, the same vigour is missing when it comes to discussing riddance from BJP and RSS’ politics of hate. The silence on the subject assumes alarming proportions when one were to specifically call for a ban on the RSS. There appears to be a tacit understanding between civil society, academia, media, judiciary and law enforcing agencies – that come what may the legitimacy of RSS will not be questioned. The question about banning the organisation last came up for discussion before Vallabh Bhai Patel after investigations in the Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination revealed Nathuram’s links with RSS. Patel under pressure to deliver – outlawed it – only to revoke the ban a few days later.

Decades later Rahul Gandhi, in an attempt to project himself as magnanimous, says that he doesn’t want a BJP and RSS mukt Bharat. He himself serves no good by not amply clarifying as to what exactly he makes of this ambiguous phrase. As per records on at least a couple of occasions he has tried to deal with the subject. The one significant occasion that comes to mind is the speech he delivered in parliament in July this year during the Rafale debate at the end of which he walked up to the treasury bench and hugged the Prime Minister. Prior to the act, he concluded his speech by saying that he doesn’t hate BJP and RSS and believed that he with his love and respect would one day bring them all into Congress’ fold.

Now when Rahul Gandhi says this it can be for either one of two reasons. He may be having a sincere belief that he can achieve a changeover of heart and mind of the communal party. Or, it might be a cleverly crafted superficial remark to position congress as more inclusive of the two and earn in the process a favourable press. If the reason he doesn’t want a BJP/RSS mukt Bharat is to win over the opposition’s heart, and if indeed he succeeds in bringing about this tectonic change then it would be a historic effort by the Congress president, worthy of applause beyond doubt. But, and here I have my reservations, if he isn’t serious and has a limited agenda of political posturing, then it’s a dangerous development.

The sign of this latter possibility was underscored during the press conference held by the Congress president on 11th December after the results for the assembly elections were declared, where he said that the BJP and RSS represent an idea which is a reality in our country. Here unlike his statement in parliament, he seems to be legitimising the idea what BJP and RSS stand for. By not denouncing in unequivocal terms the ideology of hate, he is essentially trying to woo over the Hindutva followers. Rahul Gandhi after 14 years in active politics can’t be so naive so as to not understand the ills that plague the idea he is speaking of as an established reality of this country.

To begin with, the Congress president must understand that RSS right from its very inception was inspired by fascism. Its founding fathers were rather sworn Hitler and Mussolini fans. It didn’t participate in the freedom struggle and infact collaborated with the British. The false testimonies of RSS members led to imprisonment and hanging of many freedom fighters. Not to forget that it conspired to kill Mahatma Gandhi.

Post-independence, it aspires for a majoritarian rule, believes in racial superiority and wants a theocratic state that promotes monolithic culture. Moreover, it doesn’t respect the rule of law, performs Shastra pooja and runs its own private militia. Till only a few years back it didn’t hoist the tricolour at its Nagpur office. Its offshoots still burn the constitution on the eve of independence and republic day. It continues giving Manusmriti the order of precedence over the sacred book of the nation. Its ideology of Hindutva transcends constitutional legit and its existence is a perpetual threat to the unity and integrity of this country.

In recent years riding on the majoritarian wave, it has managed to enter every nook and corner of the nation. Presently it has at least two active members at village level who are entrusted with the job of advancing its propaganda, through a judicious mix of word of mouth and social media. It is increasingly trying to appropriate all symbols of Hinduism, be it scriptures, rituals or personalities and projecting itself as the fountainhead of Sanatana Dharma. Its members have been indicted in several terror cases from Mecca Masjid, Malegaon to Samjhauta Express blasts.

Given Sangh’s history and his own future political relevance, it would serve Rahul Gandhi a lot more good were he to be cognizant about Sangh’s infiltration of his own ranks. Contrary to whatever his wishes are, efforts towards a Sangh mukt Congress should hold primacy for him over all other issues. If indeed he has his heart in the right place he should respect BJP as the principal opposition but only sans its ideology.

RSS, in any case, needs to be collectively called out, by all progressive quarters, for what it is – a terror outfit. Beyond BJP, Congress rhetoric this is one mukti that India desperately needs.

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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.

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.

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 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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