What New Zealand’s Christchurch Attack Means In The Context Of India

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It would be outrageous if anyone fails to recognize that the unbridled, anti-Muslim bigotry has become quite widespread in our societies; that Muslims are invaders, intent on replacing the majority community of west, Europe or India for that matter has swelled up like a cloud ready to burst any moment.

A “Muslim invasion” is that sentiment which is not limited to a far-right extremist with a gun in a mosque, killing Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. It is popularised by scores of people in far more mainstream arenas and can be reflected in blatant remarks of our leaders, who know they will never be held accountable for those words. Every time some far-right populist promotes the idea that Muslims are a threat to our civilization, this feeds into a climate of hate and resentment towards Islam and Muslims generally.

The aftermath of such sedimentation of hate makes the whole community vulnerable to such attacks, like shooting in a mosque or in the form of mob lynchings. Hate is slowly creeping in the societies, caressing the years old prejudices. If you look around you would notice some of it rearing it’s ugly head once in a while; the loot at a person’s face I meet in the university when they get to know I am a Muslim, the interrogations about my faith and their complete obliviousness about it has left me perplexed beyond measures. But what shocks me more are the expectations that I must have all the answers because hey, I am a Muslim!

In conversations, I keep coming across offensive remarks like “how Islam is the root cause behind the terrorism in the world and the ISIS mentality is the hidden reality of all the Muslims”. They don’t try to even hide the disgust towards the Muslim community. If I try to give them a counter argument involving the politics of middle east they would casually shrug it off by making a comment like “the terrorist was waving the Quran”, as if thatʼs the only evidence they need to brandish the whole community of Muslims as Al Qaeda terrorist. I am talking about 23-24 years old graduates studying law.

Situations in undergrads, where the young impressionable minds come whose knowledge is restricted by the comments they read on facebook, twitter, our mainstream tv channels, the whatsapp forwards, is abysmal. What’s the problem one might ask? As far as I think the problem of any evils in society is those unchecked unaccountable comments which people make that goes unnoticed because it is so normalized by our society.

For example- in one of my moot competition on triple talaq, the judge asked the plaintiff what he wants from the court. He replied, My lord all the Muslim countries have banned the practice of triple talaq and India is a “Hindu” country why we must follow this practice? To my utter disbelief, instead of calling off on him that what gave him the idea that India is a  “Hindu country’’, the judge who was a professor of law chose not to say anything as if his statements were not at all unconstitutional and an attack on the very idea of India.

This kind of utterances is pretty common in the normal discourse of India. Like this attack in New Zealand, people would deny saying that oh, this is not Islamophobia and just a lone extremist attack. I think the very same people need to give the Muslim community the same benefit of the doubt, instead of making the whole community apologize for acts done by some fanatics. Secondly, there is a need to create a safe space for Muslims to speak out without the fear of being labeled as Pakistani sympathizers. People need to understand a common Muslim of India without twisting their words and betraying their sentiments, without making them “the other”.

Citizens of this country have to go beyond and transcend these differences, giving not only the Muslim community but also, our political leaders an opportunity to confront the problem plaguing the Muslim community without fear of losing their Hindu vote banks. We need to be better than this. We need to come together as a nation which cares about everyone in its community despite sex, gender, religion, caste, color or creed. We need to build each other up and that cannot be done by demonizing the whole community of Muslims. There are no buts or binaries.

Indian society has to confront the elephant in the room. Our leaders have to bridge this gap without getting the mileage for further dividing the communities.  Every time we deny the threat of anti-Muslim bigotry or underestimate the extent of Islamophobia, we encourage those in our society who seek to whip up hatred against Muslim communities. As the glue that binds the Hindu-Muslim community is not the chest-thumping patriotism espoused by a monopolist of nationalist forces, it is an acknowledgment of each other’s faith and sheer force of a culture that has been shared since the past thousand years.

21st century India has to draw inspiration from the 13th-century Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb that reflects in Khusrao’s eloquence over Krishna’s Ras Leela. It needs to tell a different tale. An inclusive tale where a Muslim reads Mahabharata and a Hindu is more comfortable with Islamic lore than their own. We have shut ourselves up in our secluded poultry pens and spend all our time hating each other. The culture had to be the first casualty, as seen in the demise of Urdu which was a product of our Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb.

The democracy in India is on a life-support system. We are not only witnessing the death of a language but the passing away of a way of life, the slow demise of a synthesis of culture and corrosion of that glue which binds India’s diverse communities together. India needs to step up and act fast before it falls prey to the monstrosity which is rearing in its womb. I pray that sanity prevails in India before it falls prey to a fate worse than that of New Zealand.

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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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