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When It’s Not About Cows, It’s About ‘Jai Shri Ram’

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In early 2015, ISIS burnt to death Muaz al Kassasbah, a Jordanian Air Force pilot who had crash-landed in ISIS territory in Syria. The gruesome lynching – Muaz was burnt alive inside a steel cage – was shot on video, and shared on social media. While this was not the first public execution video released by the terrorist group, it was regardless one of its more horrific ones. Muaz had gotten married only about 3 months before his murder. He was only 26-years-old. We greeted this piece of news with sadness, rage, shock, even indifference at the banality of ISIS violence. But we told ourselves that this horror would pass, since the whole world appeared to be united against ISIS and it would eventually be defeated. Indeed, ISIS has officially been defeated, and its organisation more or less destroyed. But as the Sri Lanka blasts in April showed, they can still coordinate their operations and their violent ideology is still capable of inspiring mass suicide-murder attacks.

Give Him Another 5 Years And See How He Changes The Country

A few days ago, I happened to catch a roadside ‘pakoda’ seller listening intently to Modi’s speech to the Indian diaspora in Japan. I stopped at his stall for a couple of minutes, listened to a varnished speech given – from Japan – to slavering Indian fans, and then looked at the content face of the man whose radio I was listening to. “Isn’t he wonderful?”, he seemed to ask me, “Everything he is doing is for the nation, he doesn’t even care about his wife!” I discovered that he has a wife and a 12-year-old son, who goes to school. I decided against asking him how he would react if one fine morning, his wife left him and their son to “do something for the nation”, as that would be too personal.

Instead, I told him I wished his son a bright future. He beamed at me, and after returning a wan smile, I walked away. I couldn’t judge the man too much. This was, after all, an indication of the kind of influence charisma and PR can have on ordinary humans. I have had to deal with much more educated and well-off relatives who have told me it was okay for the government to hide India’s terrible (un)employment numbers because “any party would do that with elections coming up”. “Give him another 5 years and see how he changes the country,” I was lectured.

Less than 5 weeks into that blessed second term, we have been given the magical taste of “New India”. Tabrez Ansari, a migrant worker in Pune from Jharkhand who had come home on a vacation, was accused of being a “bike thief”, arraigned by a bunch of thugs, tied to a lamppost, and brutally beaten up while being made to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman. Someone from the mob had the good sense of recording the assault on video, to later be shared on social media.

While this wasn’t the first video of Muslim killing shared by Indian Lynchers Anonymous, it was one of the more heart-rending ones. Tabrez was left to die after having sustained critical injuries. The police came to the scene late, and – wait for it – arrested Tabrez for a theft he could not have committed (you couldn’t possibly die with a stolen bike in your pocket), didn’t take him to hospital for four days after he was brutalized, instead keeping him in custody.

He succumbed to his injuries by the time he was taken to a hospital. He was just 24, had gotten married a little over a month ago, and he had only come home to take his wife back to Pune with him. We have greeted this piece of news with sadness, rage, shock, even indifference at the increasing banality of Hindutva violence. But we wouldn’t know if this horror would pass. Not when the ‘Messiah’ tells us from the clouds that we should be more worried about the reputation of Jharkhand than the fact that Muslims are being lynched with impunity under a ruling ideology that wants to shove a Hindu Rashtra down our collective gullet. Because he has used this deflection tactic to win elections before, with the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom and Gujarat’s asmita (pride); and the 2019 Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot-Chowkidar gimmick.

Faux-statesmanlike, trite and generalised assertions about how “no person has the right to take the law in their hands” have been trotted out by the ‘Messiah’ in the aftermath of mob violence before as well. Just that back then we weren’t being told how another 5 years of this would “change” India. Now that idea of “change” seems and sounds a lot more sinister.

Has India become “Lynchistan”? More specifically, has the Messiah era bestowed upon us the unique honour of being a gang violence capital? One research suggests there is no clear answer, although there appears to be a clear trend (latest 2017) that cow-related violence has risen since 2014. No prizes for guessing who the victims have primarily been. IndiaSpend data suggest that the overwhelming majority of victims of cow-violence are Muslims. Aamir Aziz, who gave us the beautiful, poignantAcche Din Blues“, laments inThe Ballad of Pehlu Khan, “Bas khata itni si thi, ke yehin paida huye, aur Musalmaan the. (His only fault was that he was born in India and a Muslim.)” He asks us not to forget the names of all those who have been killed or maimed in the name of protecting ‘gau-Mata’.

It’s Clear Tabrez Failed His Taqiya Test

NEW DELHI, INDIA – JUNE 22: Members of All India Students Association (AISA) hold placards as they protest against the mob lynchings in the country, at Parliament Street, on June 22, 2018, in New Delhi, India.

Starting with Mohd Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015. He eschews non-vegetarian fare when he is mobile. His mother is too scared to allow him to have any. I myself know from experience the bitter taste of the intolerance some upper caste Hindu vegetarians show towards non-vegetarians. A fellow upper caste man like me might be spared any physical (or even other forms of) violence (Hindutva still needs votes from those whose names sound Hindu). A Muslim man or woman can’t be so sure these days.

But Tabrez’s killing had nothing to do with cows. For what it’s worth, cow thugs don’t have anything to do with “protecting” cows either. The population of cows had been happily rising till 2012, and at last count, it stood at around 123 million (pg 28). So, Tabrez’s killing had to do with a goddamn bike. No, I am kidding. He initially told them his name was “Sonu“. When they demanded his real name, he couldn’t hide it.

Islamophobes often accuse Muslims of taqiyaan act of dissimulation sanctioned by the Quran, which they see as evidence (read: another reason to hate them) that Muslims are untrustworthy by virtue of their religion and that most of them are always scheming to destroy ‘kafirs’, despite claiming the opposite. It’s another matter that taqiya is supposed to be for occasions when your life is in danger of being a Muslim. It’s still another matter that these verses are from a time when wars were being fought by Muhammad and his followers in Arabia with the dual motive of staving off persecution of Muslims and spreading Islam far and wide. Life is complicated. But always trust ignorant bigots to take things out of context and oversimplify to justify their hatred and violence. It’s clear Tabrez failed his taqiya test. Who knows if he even knew about taqiya? Even if he did, under duress, he couldn’t apply his knowledge. One wishes he could. One so wishes he could.

Tabrez was killed because he was a Muslim. When it’s not about cows, it’s aboutJai Shri Ram’. If not, it’s about “stolen” bikes. It could be topis, burkhas, beards, eyes, ears, nose; just about any bloody excuse can be used to gang-murder a Muslim in India. To paraphrase Toni Morrison, “there will always be something else”. The ‘reason’ violent bigots want to kill you is simply that you exist and you are different.

Indians, many of them Hindus, have protested and voiced their outrage at Tabrez’s murder in which the Jharkhand police were complicit. That small sliver of hope we have left that humanity has not died. That India is the India we want, not the Lynchistan in which decent humans troubled by signs of fascism and outraged by terrorist violence are deemed “anti-national”.

All those years ago, the Messiah had appealed to foreign companies to “Make in India”, even though there was little planning, lesser implementation to compete with China and Southeast Asian countries in providing skilled labour to manufacturers. That grandiose initiative might have turned out to be a dud, but the clarion call was given to Hindutva fanatics by Him and His minions, albeit using the dog whistle, to “Lynch in India” has, by all accounts, engendered grand success. Complete with all the ISIS-style impunity, chutzpah and gore. And so we roll.

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  1. rational Dude

    “Mohammad’s wars had the dual motive of spreading islam far and wide…”
    So very true.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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, 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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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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