This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Farhat. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dear Youth Of Beloved India: An Informal Request

How are you? It’s been a long time I haven’t heard from you. Recently met YouTube and Instagram and got to know that you have made new friends and are doing good. You have really come into your own in the digital creative space. So proud of you.

You will be happy to know that I am fine and have started a small business which is bringing in the money and also taking me places.

I recently met India and was saddened by the deplorable state it is in. Did you know about it?

While we were busy figuring out life and working towards our careers, some adversaries crept into its fabric, and it is now battling horrors of oppression, mob violence, hate crimes and social injustice in a way that we have not seen in decades.

Obviously like an idealist, I tried to question the persecution of liberty, but I was outplayed and outnumbered by fanatics who want to coerce India into becoming a land of hooliganism and fear.

The oldest strategy in the book: “divide and rule” is being deployed once again to distract attention from the socio-economic crisis and people are getting played into the hands of brazen power-hungry groups. They have fuelled the propaganda of “Us” against “Them” pitting religions and castes against each other so that people are occupied in mudslinging each other while they destroy the secular nature of India.

I cannot begin to comprehend the brutality, aggression, misplaced anger, sheer disregard to human lives that are at display. How broken is our system that everywhere there is news of rape, child deaths, murder, lynching, violence, social disparity and no accountability whatsoever by the leaders or the authorities. There is no fear of law or the judiciary, and it is evident in the social behaviour of the people as it quickly escalates running rampant.

This led to an epiphany which made me question the ethos of life itself.

You have always been there for me, and I felt it imperative to reach out to you. I urge you to bear with me and read what I have to say. I know you have different interests, goals and aspirations and are busy working hard for a life you want. I relate to your hustle and grind. But we can no longer ghost the reality, keep surfing the virtual world and go on about our lives. It is only a matter of time before the perverse nature of these iniquities circles around us in some way or the other.

While you and I were busy going about our millennial lives, our Motherland was growing old and not gracefully so.

Shouldn’t we the youth spend some quality time with our nation and alleviate the weeds that eat away the healthy environment and stagnate its prosperity? India is reeling under pain of failed media and misplaced nationalism. The onus lies as much on us as it does on the government, considering youth comprises more than 50% of the total population of India.

Youth has often been underestimated and not taken seriously in the political discourses, being relegated to a section which is inattentive and frivolous. But we are not. Our ways and tools are just different. Some of you might feel I am romanticising nationalism, why should we bother when something terrible is not happening to us personally.

Should we become so cocooned in our world that we become apathetic to the suffering of those who are not as privileged as we are and are facing discrimination only because they have a different faith or are poor?

Of course, I do not expect you to leave your jobs, your life and become some kind of protester on the street. I only urge you to become sensitive to the issues around, to embrace the power of the collective youth and stand up for fundamental civic and human rights. For who are we if we don’t speak in solidarity for the right?

I urge you to refute unjustness and speak up for humanity persistently.

Entities motivated by religious propaganda have clutched the spirit of our nation and are forcing a picture that is not our India, not our issue, not our faith. It is rabid and embarrassing to the ideals of India.

Is that what we want?

These groups and people are taking advantage of the lack of vigorous youth participation in political matters and have self-appointed themselves as our face.

They are NOT US and we need to vocally, and clearly spell that out. We need to repudiate those who use the name of any religious sect to bully, haggle and incite mob violence and lynching. Such people have no faith; they are criminals.

I do not ask you to align with any political party, leader, ideology, religion or a group. I ask you to align yourself only with the virtues of democracy, integrity, liberty and courage. Though in these peculiar times, such virtues are considered weak and impassive, it is the novelty of these very virtues that will bring India back from the dark path it has set upon.

It is our civic as well as moral duty to look after our nation at a time when it is incapable of looking after itself.

History is a testament to the fact that when a nation crumbles, it is the youth of the country that can define its fight and resilience.

So, what can we do? What should we do?

For starters, we can exercise the most potent weapon at our disposal: our vote. Cast your vote, not in the name of religion, caste, party or a xenophobic ideology, but for the deserving candidates who talk about real socio-economic issues and not use the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric, do not malign another community with abusive language.

Make a conscious decision to not vote for candidates who sell hate and religion through elections, not to vote for those who have criminal cases of rape, murder, terrorism against them no matter of whichever party.

If we consciously keep doing this collectively and consistently and keep rejecting such candidatures, all parties will be forced to field better representatives eventually.

Every time we keep quiet in the face of wrong, we become complicit and make it stronger by our absence.

People of authority and holding offices constantly dillydally around real issues by keeping us engaged in the narrative of fear and hate by repeatedly playing it on all forms of news broadcasting and communication.

The least we can do is, refuse to be baited and ask well informed smart questions and even smarter counter questions when deflected with ambiguous wordplay.

This will only work if diaspora of youth across India comes together to show strength in our numbers, which will resonate in the voice that denounces every kind of wrongdoing in the name of nationalism. Such a united front will inspire further confidence in unity and will become a force to be reckoned with.

Are we so indifferent to not see that the secular fabric of India is being blatantly insulted by bigots, hate mongers and communal disruptors? Or are we choosing to just ignore it? My heart doesn’t let me believe this. I have the confidence in you and know that you are too wise to let anyone fool you any longer.

We are living in the era of New Media and internet activism. We don’t need news channels or papers to speak for us. We do not need to wait for someone to be our broadcaster. We have the means, we have the choice, and we have our voice to let anyone and everyone know that we are educated, informed Indians who will not let their country slide into fascism.

Each one us is on social media having hundreds and thousands of friends and followers. Each one of us garners likes and following for our selfies, travel posts, fashion posts, writing posts, comedic posts, viral content etc. Each one of us can do our bit towards upholding the integrity of our nation.

I do not ask you to engage in a battle online with trolls, that is a useless feat. I only urge you to make yourself aware of the true socio-political condition of India, to think and educate yourself to the possibility of the impact you can have whenever you verbalize dissent and do it through the medium which is your strong point.

There are people, writers, journalists, activists who are speaking up against this but they are too few and too cornered. Thus, my emphasis on unity and strength in numbers. Yes, there will be trolls who will try to scare you, but they will be scared, too, this time by our numbers and collective voice of dissent.

I know you have classes to attend, jobs to do, bills to pay, chores to complete and social life to attend, and all this looks passionate on paper with maybe zero feasibility. But are we seriously not even going to try and just read articles, share a post here and there and keep on going about our lives?

Is the youth of India really so disinterested in its nation’s suffering?

I don’t think so. I can confidently speak on your behalf when I say that young India wants a progressive, diverse, safe and harmonious nation.

Instead of ignoring and distancing ourselves from these issues, we need to reclaim the true spirit of diverse India vehemently. Even if the majority of us do not understand politics or are not interested in it, one thing that all of us are interested in is goodwill of our nation.

I consciously speak to you in the language of a sovereign, secular India, in the language of our constitution which clearly states freedom, equality and integrity as paramount.

As outdated or cliched it may sound, but we cannot deny,

“mazhab nahi sikhata aapas mein bair karna”.

We have to embrace our faiths and speak out against factions misusing religion for their power as the want of India.

Our former president Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, a visionary in every sense inspired the youth to be the very best that they could be. He always believed in the power of the youth to bring about transformational changes in humanity for its progress, meeting its challenges and bringing about peace and prosperity.

He always emphasised the need to teach our youth to transcend the divides that exist in society and work for nationalistic goals while achieving their individual goals. I invoke the visions and words of the exemplary leader and educator as it gives me hope, inspires me to dream and be part of a better India.

Won’t we enjoy our jobs, careers, professions, even more, knowing that we contributed to the peace and solidarity of India?

Won’t we cherish our smartphones, laptops and gadgets, even more, knowing that we stood up for our fellow citizens and spoke against injustice?

Won’t we feel honoured knowing that we strengthened civic and human rights while on our journeys?

This year we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and the prevalent problems of our country are the antithesis of the vision of the father of the nation.

The constitution is the supreme law, and in these times of bleak politics, we need to go back to the book and invigorate the ethos of India.

There are vested interests who are trying their best to vilify the power of the constitution and thus weaken the written defences of the citizens of India.

No office, no authority, no institution, no leader is above this supreme law which secures justice, liberty, equality to all the citizens of India and promotes fraternity of people.

The supreme power lies with people.

It is the unity of the people of India which is its strength, and it is the cultural diversity of India which is being clearly targeted and viciously manipulated so that people fight with each other, hate each other, become divided and weak. While those in power can sit back and do what they want.

I am the youth. You are the youth of India and flailing India needs our attention and responsibility to ensure we safeguard the fabric of secular India for the future and generations to come. Youth is not one gender, one region, one religion or one caste. Youth is all-encompassing. It is a force if rightfully directed can take a nation to greatness.

Our motherland, our parents and we will be the proudest if we become the generation which did not accept an appalling mockery of humanity, low standards of governance and human development instead challenged autocracy, wrongdoings, injustice and danger posed to human lives.

To be the generation which is not just fashionably cool but also intellectually assertive and morally well founded.

As I take your leave, I do hope that you patiently read this rather long letter and spare a thought to what I intend to say.

I might have missed somethings here and there but what I might be lacking in writing is compensated in the spirit of this message.

Until we meet again,

Take care. May love and peace be with you.

 

Yours Affectionately,

A fellow youth of beloved India

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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.

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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)’.

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.

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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.”

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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