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The Diversionary Tactics Of The Saffron Party

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Failed to implement its promises it had made in the run-up to the 16th Lok Sabha elections, the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is back to whipping up national sentiments in order to evade real “bread and butter” issues facing the people.

In its editorial on 3 April 2019, The Indian Express observed apprehensions over the Prime Minister’s remarks made in Wardha, Maharashtra, for targeting the Congress for coining the term “Hindu terror” and invoking the specter of “Hindu anger”, and politicizing the last month’s acquittal of Assemanand and some other members of alleged radical Hindu outfits by a Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Panchkula, Haryana. The PM brushed off the court’s anguish while letting the accused off, pointing that the NIA withheld the key evidence against the accused.

The brazen polarization of the electorates, on the lines of the religion and the binary of majority versus minority, by the ruling party is in full swing with an overt disregard to the ethos of the democratic polity. There have been cases where the BJP politicians have been seen overtly garlanding the lynching accused and sharing the stage with the accused of the serious crimes such as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister sharing the stage with the Dadri lynching accused in which a family was attacked for allegedly storing beef in their refrigerator.  This reflects the party in poor light and shows its desperation to capture power by hook and crook.

The Bhartiya Janata Party rode to power with the development as its main poll-plank and inclusive growth for all Indians. But an honest stocktaking of its five-year stint would reveal a complete failure on all fronts. Besides, the party employs diversionary tactics to deal with real issues and tackle its opponents. The party, interestingly, never shies away in branding its competitors as anti-nationals who, it reiterates, need to be packed off to Pakistan.

One and a half month ago, the party was reeling under the combined onslaught of the opposition and the civil society for its alleged irregularities in the purchase of the Rafale Fighter Jets from France. The sudden terror strike in Pulwama in February and subsequent Indian Air Force strike in Pakistan’s Balakot region turned the tables for the party leading to a complete change in the national discourse. The party managed to change the narrative from internal failures to external security dynamics vis-a-vis Pakistan. This led many to perceive that the BJP had a pragmatic and hard-nosed approach when it comes to the security and integrity of the country.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the radical groups embarked on a free spree to target Kashmiri students across the country harassing and abusing them for more than a week till the apex court intervened, acting upon a plea filed by advocate Tariq Adeeb. Much later, though, Ram Madhav, BJP’s general secretary echoed the sentiments of the top court declaring that all Kashmiris are ours and they need to be won by love and the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

One month later, the party raised the issue of the contentious Article 35A well before elections. On March 28, 2019, Mr. Arun Jaitley, the finance minister in the NDA government, wrote a Facebook post and observed the following: “Article 35A was surreptitiously included by a Presidential Notification in the Constitution in 1954. It was neither a part of the original Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly nor did it come as a Constitutional Amendment under Article 368 of the Constitution which requires approval by a two-third majority of both Houses of Parliament. It came as a Presidential Notification and is a surreptitious executive insertion in the Constitution”.

One could argue that this is his personal opinion but the timing of it indicates a clear political move intended possibly to stoke sentiments and divert the nation’s attention on issues which could be dealt with post elections. A few days later, another statement was made by Party president Amit Shah observing that Article 35 A can be abrogated by 2020. One wonders why the party is issuing such political statements when the case is sub judice.

On April 2, the Congress released its manifesto which, to a great extent, reflected the real issues including its flagship ‘Nyay scheme’ which promises 6000 rupees a month for the bottom 20 percent of the poor population(though experts have reservations on its realization), filling vacancies in the Central Government, Central Public Sector Enterprises, Judiciary and Parliament by March 2020, creating around one million jobs in Gram Panchayats and urban municipal bodies, doubling education and health expenditure etc. Immediately it came under attack by the ruling regime with the finance minister alleging that some of the important points of the manifesto were drafted by Rahul Gandhi’s friend in tukde tukde gang, and the manifesto was meant to divide the country.

The BJP should, no doubt, be focused on external and internal security environment and should draft a realistic policy which could tackle the existing challenges the country faces, but it should devote considerable efforts in handling the issues which are being faced by the farmers and the youth of this country whose aspirations are being undermined under the current regime which is excessively focused on hyper-nationalism and majoritarian culture at the expense of the “bread and butter” concerns of the people.

The Congress manifesto may fail to yield the desired results and may fail to be implemented properly but it has accomplished one thing for sure; it has brought the focus back to the real issues.

 

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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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