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Fake News Haunts RaGa And Kejriwal, But BJP Never Seems To Be A Target

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In a recent survey, the BBC found that coverage of ‘Fake News’ in the Indian media over the last three years or so has grown by nearly 200%. Sometimes these are click-bait articles, and other times the article is actually reporting something which is completely untrue.

Fake News, as the BBC describes it, is “information, however conveyed, in whichever format, on whatever platform, which is not fully supported by factual evidence.

While click-bait is an attempt to get the reader to view a completely unrelated topic or advertisement, Fake News’ purpose is to spread of incorrect information about a political leader, or celebrity, or, for that matter, any public figure. In some cases, it is also about a place or country.

There is, of course, inaccurate reporting which is just an error on behalf of a news site, newspaper ,or news show. Unlike click-bait or Fake News, this is a genuine mistake made by reporters.

Fake News has had widespread circulation in our country in recent years, and typically because of a political or religious agenda. A lot of Fake News in recent times has been targeting the left wing—this means the ‘information’ must be coming from its competitor, the right wing, which also makes up our present government. Our government has shown an interest in curbing Fake News, yet it seems like an empty initiative if they are also interested in spreading Fake News!

Recently, a news site called My Nation published an article with the headline as “Girl asks RaGa tough questions in Dubai, Congress overseas secy office confirms it.” The article claimed that during Rahul Gandhi’s trip to Dubai, he encountered a 14-year-old girl who stumped him with her incessant questioning on his ideologies. The article mentions that he “dismissed it with a smile” and was unable to answer the questions of the child. This article has no evidence of the mentioned event, neither audio nor video.

Just after this article started circulating, Alt News took up the entire issue and fact checked it. They reached the conclusion that it was Fake News since “Rahul Gandhi addressed one public event at a stadium and two other events in which he spoke to university students in one and the workers at the Labor camp in another one.” At the stadium, he took no questions and this event was also broadcast live—the video shows no girl asking him questions. At the university, he took some questions from students, but even this event’s video shows no 14-year-old. And finally, Alt News confirmed that the girl mentioned was not at the Labor camp either. All these events were covered by the media and none of them show any signs of the 14-year old girl.

Rahul Gandhi

Even though these seemed to be false claims, the news had already spread like wildfire and succeeded in embarrassing Rahul Gandhi on social media. Was this Fake Fews concocted by the Congress’ main opponent, the BJP? I wouldn’t be surprised, since this is what has been happening for the past few months. It also seems to me that the recent elections saw a huge rise in the number of false news doing the rounds.

Fake News has become a tool of trying to control and manipulate public opinion in one’s own favour, which is exactly what is happening. Fake News about Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal had also surfaced. It was an old video of Kejriwal where he is seen talking about the Assembly elections in Punjab that took place in February 2017. The video’s speed was deliberately reduced to make him appear drunk, and slurring. A video like this destroys a politician’s credibility. People have shared the video putting captions such as “fake nationalist”, “good for nothing Kejriwal” and “Be careful while voting in future, Delhi.” Boom fact-checked the entire issue and confirmed that it was indeed an old video that had been modified.

In my opinion, we have an insincere government whose only aim is to demean and embarrass other political leaders and in order to to this they will resort to anything.

Most of the actions the government has taken against Fake News are associated with WhatsApp. The Union Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that WhatsApp should put a system in place to stop a particular message being circulated in large numbers in any particular area of a state. “If in any state, any part, on a particular subject, if there is a movement of large volumes of messages on WhatsApp, it is not rocket science that can’t be discovered by application of technology. They must find a way to stop the spread of such messages,” Prasad said. This is one of the few moves the government has taken to prevent the spread of Fake News. They have clearly ignored all other ways that Fake News spreads.

NEW DELHI, INDIA-JULY 02: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he is felicitated during a BJP parliamentary committee meeting at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images)

The incidents I have mentioned are only a minute part of the Fake News industry, which appears to be led by our very own government. Isn’t it extremely odd that there has been no Fake News about our Right Wing government? So far it has only focused on the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.

Our present government seems to have a knack for completely avoiding being the target of Fake News, and the 2019 elections result seemed to have encouraged them tremendously to do whatever they want.

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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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