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Dear Journalists, Haven’t You Realised India Doesn’t Want To Know What You Want To Show?

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Censorship: The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, a threat to society, or subversive of the common good.

Blank space. Backspace. Strikethrough.

Coffee brewed. Diplomatic issues. Prudent avenues.

Deceptive reviews. Rating and revenue. A fabricated world view. Sweet fondue.

Write. Delete. Write. Bleed. And, rue.

Journalism: The activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast.

That is, how ruthlessly the dictionary defines an art that governs our self governance,

that is an echo of our voices in the chaotic oblivion of statistical theses,

that is far beyond just a mechanical preparation of “news to be broadcast”.

Journalism is the known amidst the unknown; it is a pair of watchful eyes staring into the void, for what is an unconscious void to the commoner is a saturated consciousness looming on the brink of devastation to a journalist.

Journalism is a subjective truth,

Journalism is the objective lie,

And, amidst the roars of aggressive activism, it is the heaviness of a helpless sigh.

It is,

The mistress of mayhem,

The custodian of conspiracy,

The curator of controversy,

The sour columns and the syrupy stories,

The Times New Roman, size 9,

The Georgia Print of the uneducated Education Times,

The Verdana dominating the headings, and oh, it looks so fine,

The words all left aligned,

The systematic, symmetrical design, and the frivolous front-page headline,

The defamations, revelations, and mascaras maligned,

The eyes of a child, the frowns of the youth, and the miseries of the benign,

But when those eyes penetrate the pretty paragraphs and the euphemistic chaff, and start reading between the lines,

Dear journalists, that is where it lies, your last deadline.

Until then, take your time.

Write us something juicy and sensationalised.

Distract us from the latest money laundering scam that passed as ‘policy reform’ by publicising a minister blurting words so imbecile.

Tell us about prospective assassinations and 60 years of ruthless domination.

Tell us about the cows and your delicately planned proselytisation.

Tell us about the Hindu-Muslim division and all your fancy-schmancy 1977 anti-nationalism.

Dear journalists, how have you not realised?

India does not want to know what you want to show.

We don’t intend to water the seeds that you want to sow.

We are the ages which seek investigative journalism that preys, hunts, and kills.

We are not the ages which seek diplomatic conversation that suggests, persuades, and deceives.

We breed on news, on information,

We cannot clutch on to shreds of outdated, falsified news while we press the button and cast our vote,

Democracy dies with journalism, quote unquote.

With residents unaware of the man on the pedestal, and residents unaware of the one standing beside them,

Leaders turn into caricatures and cartoons, over breathing human beings, because that’s all that we’ve seen.

And our faith in journalism is slowly chipping away,

It is rusting, eroding, and diminishing until all that exists is the archaic Word with no meaning of its own,

We are only a step away from the calamity when journalism will have no definition and no application, because why refer to it as ‘journalism’ when ‘fiction’ conveys the same?

We won’t know, if journalism is a part of fiction or a part or fact because it would have become too fictitious to be a fact, and too factual to be a tale,

For it would have become so consumed by contradiction,

So choked by restriction,

From the names, to the designations, to the diction,

I’m soaked in the weight of blind regulation.

The clickbait,

The broken business model,

The political propaganda,

The polarisation,

It is maddening, isn’t it? When the length of the knife begins at a carved hollow and ends at the hand that created it, which surprisingly belong to the same body?

And, after delving a knife within your own chassis, you complain about the stench of blood as it trickles down to your feet?

But, I wash these notions away from my aged soul and sip my morning tea.

The headlines printed beside pornographic images, that are seen yet unseen,

The emboldened, italicised red letters that we are too terrified to read,

The lowering intelligence quotients and varying needs traded for the holy currency,

The fingers gliding across phone screens, skimming through their “personalised news feeds”,

The stories stitched around sinister deeds,

The moral immorality, the illegal legality, and the same greed.

The torment of truth withheld and the burden of truth freed.

The crisp sound of freshly printed newspapers, the warm aroma of morning tea, the creaking of old chairs, the footsteps on linoleum floors, and the clatter of ceramic cups,

The nation has risen to read, the entwined tales of dictatorship and democracy,

Only to be fed the incomplete, harrowing language of vacant words and deformed sentences that are printed on thin, white papers with pretty advertisements and flattering agreement,

That have printed upon their translucent surfaces the vivid descriptions of proportionate waistlines, porcelain skin, plumped lips, painted tufts and tresses,

Oh, tell me about the sensational lives of actresses,

The curves of cleavages,

The provocative expressions on young faces,

And the chronological timeline of the latest rape case described with emotionless detail across unending pages,

Tell me about the new saints and sages,

The true journalists imprisoned within bureaucratic cages,

And, this is how the readership suffocates itself with images of red carpets while no one mentions the unpaid minimum wages.

The rebellions with hurricanes of passion, that only leave traces of intentional issues created on unbalanced stages.

The gag, the rope, the noose, the knives, the loaded rifles,

Welcome to the exhibition of all the journalists we stifled.

The pen that shivers and the blots of ink that splatter across plain, white sheets like bloodstains on battlefields.

The crematorium of realities masqueraded beneath a sheet of jargon too soft, too sweet, too cordial with deceit.

I don’t know what we have become and I don’t know what we are becoming,

We are the centuries of audacious poetry compiled into the generations of history, etched across the decades of etymology, and devoured in these years of blasphemy, with writers strangled by censorship, monetary necessity, political popularity, and social media profanity.

We are the months, the weeks, the days, the hours, and the minutes that pass by at the railway station, in the taxi, in the conference room, in the classroom, at the work desk, at the market, and in the seconds before you fall asleep to the distant quiet within your own disquiet, and in the tally of breaths you live by, that are detained within the echoing emptiness of your routine existence,

We have become slaves, not to our suppression but to our own aimless resistance.

We are the helplessness of the poor newspaper seller who reads his time away, in hopes of witnessing change,

We are the suffering of those compelled to dissent on the roads, and we are the privilege of those who lament within air-conditioned condos,

Unknown to the daily rhythms of red tape and money hungry systems, unknown to the dried blood on those government files, ink pens, and sindoor soaked foreheads,

Unknown to the cemetery of men and women who have been buried under these polished marble floors, their recklessness far too intimidating for these hazed hallways, their voices far too loud for these hushed corridors.

Journalism today is a graveyard of all the truths that are not allowed to be spoken.

It is a graveyard, not of the martyrs who died with the bitterness of truth lingering on their lips, but of those who surrendered to the sweet swish of the whip.

It is a graveyard of those who diluted the essence of journalism by never disclosing that oftentimes, the ones who sow flowers on their skin, also submerge their soul in sin.

And so I conclude,

Journalism is an act of war.

If you are bleeding dissertations of destruction,

If you are weeping tragedies of truth,

While having laid your head on the mouth of a guillotine,

While being tied down with the chains of censorship,

Then, aren’t you a soldier too?

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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