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Have We Created An Army For Our Enemies Or An Enemy For Our Army?

More from Santosh Kumar Mamgain

When we are talking about war (and it is fortunate to know that a lot of threads have been initiated to question the discourse of war both in public forums and social media) the question needs to be asked: how are we trying to understand the war, as academicians, as activists, as laypersons, or as informed citizens? All these different positionalities will elicit different kind of responses on our part. Much of the discussion taking place here is restricted to certain key events and arguments on the lines of the politics of war. It creates a polemical relation with other countries through one-sided narratives which, when seen with a critical gaze, can be really problematic. But can we go beyond these event-centric discourse? Can we talk on a slightly theoretical plane and challenge the very concept of a war as it exists and is appropriated in our history and society? The approach will really be consequentialist, as against the deontological argument provided by the pro-war syndicate. How can we challenge the assertion that people use to justify war? That assertion being that it’s a great deed to fight and die for the nation, thereby fulfilling one’s obligations to the nation by participating in a ‘noble cause’.

The first problem with an actual war is that it creates misery, not just for the present but also for the future. It damages a country not only economically, socially, and politically, it creates anxiety among the population. An actual war can be used as an example to create perpetual tension among the people. Tension of a possibility of war is more dangerous than an actual war, as it creates an aura of something lurking somewhere in the bushes, ready to pounce on us. Thus, we are thrown into a war-like situation for the rest of our lives without encountering any actual war.

“Gassed” (1918) by John Singer Sargent. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

War is a waste of human lives and resources, not just because it disposes with a huge number of resources, but also because, for the sake of war, the resources are diverted to fulfill the egos of two or more nations. We are all aware of how war can be detrimental to everyday lives of people living near military zones. But it can affect far-flung areas too, in the varying degrees of impact it creates on the economy and society. It creates food shortages, heaving patrolling, and military scrutiny of suspected areas and public spaces, especially where the army has considerable power in its hands. Not to forget that a huge number of able-bodied armed men themselves have to deal with adverse conditions (‘for the greater good of the nation). War reduces armed men to a category, utterly neglecting their individual vulnerabilities and struggle, both on the war front and otherwise, again for the ‘sake of the nation’.

War creates a particular discourse of ‘Nationalism’ in the society which reinforces the belief that direct armed a action is the best (and at times the only) way to show ‘Patriotism’. In a country like ours, where defence is a voluntary service and there is no conscription law of sorts to accommodate every able bodied person in defence services, such a militaristic nationalism that is evoked before, during, and after the war, alienates the people working for betterment of civil society in different capacities. When one says that the army is the only temple for the Goddess of Patriotism to reside in, it renders all other beings atheists, traitors to the cult. That is to say, in such a situation, anyone not going according to the discourse set by the institution of the army (not necessarily by members of the army itself) is always vulnerable to being declared ‘anti-national’. The question needs to be asked: is being concerned about the lives and dignity if people who become victims if war also not a form of patriotism? War then becomes an appeasement to the false god of nationalism which doesn’t take into consideration the lives of people that form a nation, simply for the sake of maintaining the façade of territorial unity.

I conclude by repeating the popular idiom which says that wars teach us to hate people we don’t know, hate the places we have never been to, and constantly look for an enemy outside our own territory. This othering of a nation is the fulcrum on which the whole idea of a nation is based upon. So the final question that needs to be asked is this. Are we creating an army for our enemies or enemies for the army?

Featured Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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