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why Mahua Moitra’s ‘Anti-Faashist’ speech is farce

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The town has been abuzz with a new hero. The badass new icon of anti-faashist voice, who showed exemplary courage to stand up to the faashist regime. Our liberals and media circle can’t get over. One has lost count of the number of times in the past several years, our media has made a hero out of mediocre individuals. Somehow, our elites extend to them the liberty of being vilely out of tune with reality, the privilege of making statements without any solid backing, and of course the right to be shameless hypocrites without making an issue out of it. Yet, when the liberals and our elites taste defeat for the nth time, it’s always the fickle-minded and gullible (if not uneducated and communal; never mind that an India-Today- Axis finding showed BJP’s vote share amongst graduates is double of that of its nearest rival – the Congress) and not them with whom the problems lie. The classic textbook examples of the grapes-are-sour syndrome. As for our new poster-child, I agree with her totally. India is going the fascist route all too soon! Well, quite honestly- the Lutyen’s gang has found their new poster child for a while. For a few days, our elites who subscribe to Left of Centre views would suddenly go about all around the town with the bandwagon airing the views of their nth new found voice of reason and balance during turbulent times. Ms Moitra would be called to constitutional clubs, where the rich discuss poverty and fascism along with cocktails, reproach about the expanding silhouette of unreason and post-truth times. All these are mere consolation prizes our liberals can afford for themselves given that the grip over public opinion, sentiment and thinking they held for too long has now loosened and become more democratic. Continuing on this tirade, once again they would cede their already marginal remaining space to their rivals and also, lose the trust and faith of the apolitical and swing voter for being short-sighted and glorifying anyone as long as it’s an anti-Modi voice. Once people reject Mahua Moitra as well (I’d be happier if the Indian liberalism finds better voices, and as of now goes ahead denouncing her as well), she’d go down the way every poster child of liberalism has gone down in recent past- Dr Kanhaiya Kumar, Mr Siddharamaiah, Prakash Raj, etc. and fade into oblivion.

For a moment let’s leave everything and concentrate on what she has said. Something that no elite elated by her speech has done yet. Ms Moitra went about on a tirade against the anti-Muslim NRC. Conveniently forgetting that NRC has been a demand in Assamese politics for over four decades. The current NRC tribulation was ordered by the Supreme Court, and in fact, more Hindus than Muslims haven’t found their place in NRC, I’d go ahead and say not bringing in NRC would soon bring back outfits like ULFA and other such insurgents back whom the durbaris who love Ms Moitra for her anti-fascist voice would never have to face, face to face. So much for the boogeyman of deporting innocents, since December 2017, when the first draft was released not a single individual has been deported due to NRC. On the contrary according to MHA reports cited by the Congress itself- between 2005 and 2013, more than 80,000 were repatriated to Bangladesh, a number which in the first four years of NDA stood at 1,822. In fact, the majority of the 40 lakh are on standby due to administrative and judicial clearances. Guess who the worst collaborator of this drive is? The government of West Bengal headed by her party Supremo. West Bengal government whose leader is the so-called Lady Protector of Bengalis is the biggest defaulter in the verification process for NRC.

The second was her warning on ‘early signs of fascism’. Fascism for all reasons has been reduced to the go-to word when one is unable to find any form of articulate criticism. More about that sometime else, but in this case, I agree. Over the last few years, her Supremo has led the most authoritarian regime in independent India’s history. This political clout has been extended to law enforcement agencies so much so that people have lost all faith in the public system of the state, even if we give her Supremo the benefit of doubt in the CBI fiasco. So much so that over the last few years, the NCW has been turned away on multiple occasions during its investigation into the excesses and complete shambolic law and order in Bengal. So much so that the NCW had to remark – West Bengal in bad shape, all human rights under threat: NCW .

The same police force last year shot down two during a ‘school students’ protest’. So much for patronising of Islamic radicals, for the first time, Kolkata saw protest marches by radicals in support of Bangladeshi War Criminals. Every single riot whether in Nadia, Howrah, Basirhaat etc was blocked off from the media. The poor boy of Bashirhaat hasn’t been able to return yet and has found refuge amongst the ranks of Hindu Samhati who helped him continue his education.  The police stood mute and instead blocked the entry of journalists. On multiple occasions, most recently in Kalichak and Bashirhaat, mobs went rampage much to the mute spectatorship of the police for ‘blasphemous posts on social media’. While her own party men tried to reap dividends on camera. If this was enough, on multiple occasions her party men were caught proxy voting- whether during Panchayat polls or the General Elections.

This much for the charge of intertwined religion and government, and control of mass media.

Last but not least, we all know too well how her own Supremo has treated any form of criticism, jailing people for sharing posts, jailing cartoonists, her MLAs caught warning the police, her party men caught on camera intimidating, assaulting people for the crime of coming out to vote, burning of ballot boxes, hurling petrol bombs so much so that the EC allowed nominations by Whatsapp during Panchayat polls. The sudden obsession with the ‘outsider vs insider’ war, which was punctured by doctors’ agitation and by senior doctors across the state who’ve studied and worked all their lives in the state, to her own nephew and colleague’s daughter joining the protest. During the protest, it was a sorry and shameful display of how weak the West Bengal police really is, when they stood as if comrades in arms with party goons and mobs who not only assaulted but threw petrol bombs amongst other things right under their watch. Had it not been for the decentralization of the media due to the advent of social media and video sharing, our liberals would’ve either silently the issue brushed under the carpet or weaved a sinister narrative. Time probably would’ve stood still in remembrance to the times when the Left Front in the same iconic city had declared industrialists, businessmen, and certain sections of the bureaucracy as the class enemy.

Ever since the end of the election, violence has continued unabated, which her Supremo instigated on several occasions. Recently, a 14-year-old succumbed to bullet injuries due to police firing. So, I completely agree with her. She has shown exemplary courage to stand up against this.  One thing, the anti-government voices could do is protect the credibility which in eyes of the people, they have woefully little left. They should do this by picking voices who build their case. There are many individuals who could do justice and provide a solid opposition much required at this moment. The silence of the liberal class brought the BJP to Bengal. Despite everything, Congress was the 2nd largest party in 2016, while BJP’s vote share plummeted compared to 2014. But, when their own cadres were killed, Mr Adhir Rajan Chowdhury, couldn’t convince the Delhi Durbar of Congress to not support Mamata whether politically or in court. The results are clear, Congress and CPM both have ceded their place. Am I weary of Modi? Yes. I too fear a lot of things- homogenization, polarization etc, but being watchful and losing perspective are two radically different things. Everything that our media circles and liberal class fear Modi would do, has already been done under the watch of Madam Mamata.  

The obsession of our liberal elites to create leaders who remain mere puppets is nothing new. Once upon a time in 2009 in the Nuclear Deal fiasco, they had in fact desecrated Dr Singh of the holy grail of liberalism as well. In the exuberant display of hypocrisy and lack of leadership, our elites in the last few years have gone from glorifying the US, to jumping over to Canada. If Prime Minister Trudeau’s antics couldn’t cover up enough for his hypocrisy and ludicrous functioning, they found their new hero in President Macron of France who too they deserted not too long after when the ‘vest-protest’ broke out. Our liberals are painfully unreceptive to a truth which stares them at their face- the fact that their monopoly of view and infringed right to weave a narrative is now dead.

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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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