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Religion, Politics And State: A ‘Right’ Analysis

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It’s been more than five years of communal tension, state-sponsored violence against a particular community and increasing toxic majoritarianism. Also, Mr Modi completed five golden years with immense love and support, and back in power again with a Herculean victory. Honestly, I was a bit shocked—not because of the communal violence but the colossal victory of this hate-mongering political party. But then I ingrained in my mind that it’s all an expanded process from the fake excavations at Hastinapur, Kurukshetra and Ayodhya, the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, to the Gujarat riots in 2002. It’s all a business the BJP is running. It’s a Hindutva agenda, and the BJP supporters are fuelling this business by intensifying the divisiveness between the two communities, created by the hardliners. No doubt, this is a time of hardship for many of us who believe in equitability, substantive equality, freedom of conduct and most importantly, in free speech.

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Not only in India but all over the world, be it Trump’s USA, Imran Khan’s Pakistan, Netanyahu’s Israel, Bolsonaro’s Brazil etc., the ideology of right is at its height, getting ample acceptance everywhere. The right-wing supports the concept of capitalism, which is far more important to some than roti, kapda, makaan and sukoon. That’s why so many people believe that this ideology is apt, for instance, scholars like Lord Acton and De Tocqueville induced in the minds of people that liberty and equality are antagonistic and antithetical to each other.

So for that unscrupulous stock, economic liberty is more important than equality and economic justice. They are anti-egalitarianism and relentlessly believe in competition, strife and war. With economic liberty, right-wingers also emphasise tradition, which legitimises the very idea of social hierarchy and the oppression of commonality. The right-wing supporters or can I say, the ‘bloodsucking scroungers’ endorse this foul ideology, just to subjugate the oppressed and to never let them grow out of their perpetual state of deprivation.

And these so-called traditional people validate all these mishaps around in the name of religion. According to these religious nerds, everything is destined and not in one’s control. If you are born as a low caste or a Dalit, then it must be because of your sins in a previous life. Accept that! Caste and class for most of the people go hand in hand, i.e. if you are low caste, you are likely to be poor. In other words, religion sanctified economic inequality.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, Karl Marx rejected religion and tried to convince us that religion is a man-made product and does not have any divine origin. According to him, “religion is nothing but the opium of masses”. I believe that the economy and religion are interconnected. It paralyses us and makes us incapable of revolting against injustice and every time; we end up saying “sab Allah/Bhagwaan ke haath mein hai.”

There are other scholars as well who tried to explain the true essence of religion, but according to me, there are always some two-dimensional forces working behind a scholarly mind. A scholar is also human with his own perspective, which is affected by circumstances and environment, which makes him either believe or disbelieve in religion. Even scholars are not free of bias; some of them present the veracity of religion, while others define religion as nothing more than a fabrication.

Political scientists like Herbert Spencer linked religion with dead ancestors or ghosts, Max Mueller with naturism, Durkheim with totemism. In totemism, totems are the random objects which are considered sacred by the primitive clans. Each clan has its own totem. The totem in itself is not anything powerful or divine, but people in primitive society believed it to be. You can trace the influence of totemism into the present day, in amulets in Islam and statues of various deities in Hinduism.

Some linked religion with magic as well, according to them, it was magic that came into existence first, and then religion replaced magic. Then it was science’s turn to replace religion, and we cannot imagine even in our wildest dreams what will replace science now!

Don’t think too much and recite with me (only if you are a practicing Muslim), “Astagfirullaha rabbi min kulli zambiyun wa atubu illeh.” (I ask forgiveness of my sins from Allah who is my Lord and I turn towards Him.)

In case you don’t understand why I recited this: Beware of fatwa inflicting perjurers! 😛

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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.

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.

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.

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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 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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