No Room For Dissenters: What The Recent Violence In Jadavpur University Tells Us

Student protest at Jadavpur University.

While India is sedated with the tranquilizers of religion, race, nationalism and Chandrayan, somewhere in the eastern corner of the nation, the sounds of passionate heartbeats and an attempt to break the shackles of the miseries are now being heard all over again. While the rest of India has been rejoicing at Pakistan’s defeat in the World Cup, here is a university where the students are still dreaming about equality, brotherhood, fraternity and secularism.

What happened in the Jadavpur University campus on September 19, 2019, exhibited the resisting spirit of India, even though it seemed to be thin. Jadavpur University (JU) in West Bengal witnessed unprecedented unrest and turmoil on Thursday evening, following an incident where a section of students allegedly “heckled” Babul Supriyo, the Union minister of state for environment, forest and climate change. According to the news, the fact that Babul Supriyo had come to the university to attend a conference held by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) agitated the students, and they showed him black flags and prompted him to leave the university immediately.

However, as usual, while viewing the voracious protest by the left-leaning students of the campus, the ABVP and BJP supporters happened to attack and vandalize the university, setting the campus on fire. The matter escalated to the worse when some students of the university were beaten black and blue—as they were seen bleeding profusely. The citizens, especially the “Netizens” of India—the social media rebels who are in a constant mode of judging any coup with the help of keyboards and mouse—have given diversified views on the incident on Facebook, Twitter and other portals.

Students union room vandalised by ABVP. Image via Twitter

However, with a detailed introspection of the aftermath, it is evident that paradoxically, the university has finally fallen, and Babul Supriyo emerged as a “knight” in the eyes of the common people. My sister, who happened to be a professor and JU alumni was somewhat disappointed by the “protests” of the university and its students. Somehow, the quintessential intellectuals have lost faith and hope on the university and the left in every dimension. If we look at the other side of the story, Supriyo had been physically assaulted and disturbed with commotion and chaos. It seemed as if he was unable to state his opinions in front of the big biased crowd.

Before coming to any conclusion, it has to be mentioned that there has been a deep abhorrence among the left-liberals all over the country against the fascist government, which has given us historical catastrophes such as NRC in Assam, demonetization and mob lynching in the name of beef and religion. Whatever steps had been taken by the government went against the interest of the common masses. Therefore, there had been evidence of agitation as JNU, too, came out to protest against the ABVP vandalization and coup in JU. Even though the left collaboration seems to be bleak, there are streaks of fire which requires efforts to turn into a flame.

What Can Be Learnt From The Situation?

First of all, freedom of speech here is disrespected by both the colors, the red and the saffron. Supriyo had been visiting the university to attend a seminar and deliver a speech. If the students had complaints against the terrible right-wing activities, they could have chosen a better way of protesting than creating a terrible commotion that vandalized the public property and created unrest leading to nothing—almost like the myth of Sisyphus. Secondly, the act of the ABVP goons who came with bikes to damage the university should be highly condemned. Their unconstitutional behavior has proved to be obnoxious for the common population, and a sense of terror is prevailing all around the country. Thirdly, there has been absolutely no room for dissent and non-conforming population anymore in Bengal as well as in India.

By introspecting the social media trends and talking to numerous people, I have come to the conclusion that no one is liking or supporting any rebellion against the misdeeds happening all around society. Utilitarianism is at its peak—where people are bothered only about themselves and let the world go to “hell”. Such an attitude is dangerous for the country and her future. It seems as if the people are “sheep” who have stopped questioning and started accepting terror and tyranny as a part of their life! What is the point of remaining humans then if they are not utilizing their brains and logic to counter the terrorism in the name of state and government?

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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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