The Division Among Indians In A Gradually Dying Democracy

While citizens of the world’s largest democracy argue among themselves, quite a few dozen bills have been passed without the consent of the people. As it is easy to make fools out of largely misinformed masses, the government at the centre finds itself quite unchallenged in making undemocratic choices affecting the lives of millions. The scrapping of Article 370 has invited mixed reviews, with a relative minority criticizing the scrapping, a significant section of the populace is unquestioningly backing every decision like always, and a vast majority seemingly unbothered of the consequences.

Division Among Ourselves

The problem lies with this indifference of the masses that has allowed such an unhindered flow of authoritarian decisions made by the government. Such an indifference among people coming from a multitude of cultures is evident in how a vast majority of Indians were unbothered by the recent floods in the North East. This sheer ignorance to the matters of ‘another’ state, region, or culture has its roots with the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, very effectively implemented by India’s dictators—a bunch of fascists in New Delhi—whom I shall not name.

Prior to elaborating on the matter of Kashmir, let’s visualize how the strategy to divide and execute actually works, with reference to the most recent disheartening cases from 2018–19. The state of Nagaland suffered from one of the worst monsoon seasons during July–October in 2018, which received negligible attention from the rest of the country (including its North Eastern neighbours). I’ve heard people comment “What is Nagaland?”. Not as in ‘Where’ but ‘What’. Questions like these validate the argument of this article through which I wish to convey to my readers ‘the division amongst Indians’ in a gradually dying democracy.

To strengthen the argument, let’s focus on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 issue (that I wrote about earlier this year). An overwhelming majority of the Assamese people took to the streets across the country because CAB hurt the sentiments of the people. But it did not receive the necessary support from the rest of the country. This is the effect of the growing number of disinterested and passive citizens in a dying democracy. Very few from the ‘other’ states voiced their concerns as the state of Assam was seemingly isolated in its fight to save democracy.

Regardless, elections arrived, and everyone forgot about CAB (including the Assamese who took to the streets). The same set of motivated Assamese people who chanted “this is a raging fire, and it shall rage on” became dedicated to chanting “Modi Regime, Once Again!”. It was dumbfounding for someone like me, who took to the Parliament street multiple times, opposing the CAB. I am, to date, unable to grasp the rationality of such a diametric contradiction.

Moving on to the floods in Assam (yes, the ones occurring every year), the most recent one in July 2019 was particularly devastating, but a generalized response from the majority of the rest of India is quoted in the following remark: “It happens every year so why bother?”. The fact that citizens of the country raise the question ‘Why care?’ with regards to the suffering of other citizens validates my argument highlighting the strategic division and isolation of different regions within India.

This substitution of the word ‘us’ with ‘they’ is exactly what was envisioned by the fascists dictating from the capital. Unfortunately, a large section of the readers of this article will question my ideology to be ‘leftist’ or my political allegiance to be with the Congress whereas I’m no more than a man with ‘centrist’ ideology who lacks the criminal qualifications to have allegiance with any political party.

Have We Failed Kashmir?

I’ll start with the blatant hypocrisy regarding our opinion of Kashmir and Kashmiris. I have recorded the following statements from people I call friends: “Haven’t they always wanted to be a part of Pakistan?” To quote, the same set of people: “Why aren’t you happy with the integration of Kashmir?” Therein lies the hypocrisy when we specify Kashmiris as ‘they’ instead of ‘us’ simply because much of these hypocrites never considered Kashmiris as Indians but now rejoice at the degraded idea of ‘integration’.

Who are we to decide the fate of an entire populace sitting in our homes unaffected while Kashmiris are enduring the worst of human rights violations? Image: Getty

From the comfort of their couch under the watch of their family, a vast majority of these hypocrites don’t even know what the word ‘integration’ actually means. The least of their concerns is what the word implies to the affected Kashmiris. Some of the people I know even entertain the depraved idea of now being able to “marry Kashmiri women”. To them I ask, who are we to decide the fate of an entire populace sitting in our homes unaffected while Kashmiris are enduring the worst of human rights violations? To the readers, are you willing to sacrifice your morals based on the limited understanding of a friend, relative, or colleague?

Do You Understand The Special Provisions?

I believe Kashmiris have already endured a significant amount of losses since the last few decades, sacrifices that have undoubtedly gone in vain. The special status of Article 370 was among a fraction of promises made to the Kashmiris, that being their idea of integration and co-existence with India. A few of my misinformed friends ask “Shouldn’t the law be equal for all citizens?”, to which I put forth “Are you against caste reservations too?”

In the simplest of comparisons, just like caste reservations are a way of affirmative discrimination to empower equality, every state of India that has border conflicts (be it Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland) has special provisions. Kashmir wasn’t thriving on its special provisions but barely surviving alongside citizens who neither accept Kashmiris as Indians nor entertain the idea of their Independence. These people who talk of equality grossly misunderstand the terms and conditions attached to the idea of unity and integration.

Concluding Argument

The circumstances created during the isolation of Assam are happening to Kashmir right now. Arousing false nationalist spirits and a misguided sense of patriotism, a bunch of very powerful fascists have isolated Kashmir to such a degree that much of the country is either celebrating this degraded and forceful integration of Kashmir or are silent because they consider it to be the concern of ‘others’. To the former, I warn you that after this fascist regime has brutally massacred the will and freedom of Kashmir, they’ll come after you as your fellow citizens rejoice. To the latter, if there ever was a time to realize the intentions of the government and raise your voice, that time is now.

I fear, Assam will face a similar style of execution headed by these fascists, and so to my fellow Assamese who are absolutely fine with the ongoing situation in Kashmir, be warned that CAB is coming our way and neither Kashmir nor Delhi will stand with us. To all Indians reading this, know that your utter disregard to the crisis of another region will cause every region to crumble under this tyranny. Be warned.

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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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