The Revolutionaries Have Left But We’ve Got Fascism To Battle

Any system is a perfect system, so far as people lend their allegiance and faith to it, accept it as their destiny, and grind themselves in fulfilment of its objective. It gets irrelevant whether the system is a law-abiding one or stands in violation.

The calmness of the cities and suburbs, in the wake of a fascist uprising, is classic. If it were anything to go by, India has perfectly adjusted to the governance style of the day, or should I say; Indians are loving it? They have surrendered themselves to the status quo and have absolutely no regrets about it.

Right from village streets to highways, the entire landscape wears a perfect calm, denying the fact that at the very same moment, the internet is boiling up over the realisation of a Hindu Rashtra. There is absolutely nothing in the life of the country that would make one believe the internet dystopia. People are going around with their routine business, of usual life, with so much of pride and honour, as if were you to talk about Kashmir their response would be “What are you talking about? There is no such shop named Kashmir in this city.”   

There is a separate script being played out on the internet, while on the streets, Indians look the same, adjustable. Flexible. With that attitude of hell, I don’t care.

Glancing over the length and breadth of a country that seems to be succumbing to fascism, to find normalcy in its life is as intriguing as it is frustrating. It makes one wonder whether the threat of fascism was indeed universal or was it just used as an electoral tool by people with vested interests. Whether the threat was disproportionately blown up to seek political leverage, or it indeed, was a virus infecting the country. If the situation was as bad as the British Raj, it deserves no less than a second round of a freedom struggle.

Even when one may concede that there is nothing stopping the right-wing fascist juggernaut with the inertia it possesses; it would be a huge disservice to India to surrender without a fight. However, that fighting instinct and conviction that defined India’s freedom struggle of the past, and could take the shape of a formidable force, are missing amongst the progressives of today.

More often than not, progressives in candid conversations are seen expressing their helplessness, citing reasons of size, scale, and the enormity of the fascist apparatus. What makes it worse, is that with the exalted status they enjoy in their social circle, they are manipulating people with their preposterous analysis. The only good thing the victory of the fascist forces has done is to throw political punditry out.

Having hugely failed to gauge the mood of the nation, the punditry skill has largely been rendered useless. Many such opinion-makers and psephologists from our intellectual friends’ list, to media houses, are facing a serious existential crisis. After all, their arithmetic about the election results failed. Results appear every other day, in columns that focus on, and posts published, claiming insight into the right-wing surge; postulating hypotheses about factors where there are none, pushing theories that normalise the core reasons behind the electoral triumph.

Why Can’t We Have Another ‘Freedom’ Struggle?

This spells nothing but a sheer lack of commitment to the cause they champion in their public evocation. Compare it with the giant that British imperialism was, and how it was a power unparalleled, not just in India but the world over, still the humble forces fighting for India’s freedom managed to overwhelm it.

Had our ancestors been overwhelmed instead by the magnitude of power then, we would not have the luxury of breathing in free air now. As heroic as their efforts were, they deserve greater respect, since their endeavours did not prioritise self over the nation or require certitude of results. The most they could envision for themselves was the dream, the harvest of which they delegated to the future generations. The legacy of the freedom struggle that we are so proud of is full of such glorious tales.

However, this does not mean that well-intentioned contemporary progressives died in combat or are in hibernation, as their sudden withdrawal from the public space suggests. They have their sensitivities alive, for how else can one explain their flare up every once in a while, even if but for a brief moment. Yet, this is nothing more than a reflex reaction, a natural outcome to a set of mental conditioning, i.e., integral to any society even at the verge of death. But as goes the saying, merely wagging of the tail does not mean that the dog is alive.

Not a week had passed after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared before the country, which appeared to have been at loggerheads with the enemy fascist forces for much of the preceding two months of the campaign, resumed its normal routine. The country appeared to have moved on with the heartache in a heartbeat. The momentum-based on which wholesale proclamations were being made, livening up hopes for a better future, if not a revolution, fell with a thud, and quite bizarrely without anyone taking note of it. People from every stratum of society went back to doing exactly what they had been doing, much of the past five years, and more as the lead protagonists from the far-right tilled and ploughed, patiently biding their time for the harvest to turn gold.

Just to recollect and list their errands, the students went back to adjusting to the crippled education system, the patients with the deadly healthcare system, the women with their environment of perpetual threat and abuse, the unemployed crores with their interviews and preparations for a few thousand seats, the farmers with their agony of securing remunerative prices, the civil society with its ritualistic dissent, the columnists with their secluded corners on opinion pages, the political parties with their blame game and minorities with their increasing list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

Not one component of society displayed any aggravated sign of depression, and none took any action that would suggest otherwise. Society continued exhibiting the same silo behaviour, with no concern for what was happening in the other quarter. From cities to towns, amongst all people predisposed to the idea of India, the entropy remained constant.

Compare this with India’s freedom struggle, where once you had committed yourself, there was no going back. After every failed movement, the students would go back to study but not without a commitment to uproot the Raj; the farmers would tend their field, but not without the resolve of defying taxation laws. Likewise, with every section of society, the brush with the idea of independence was compelling enough to alter their life and outlook permanently. Even after numerous setbacks, there was no going back. Things could never be the same for the Gandhis and Jinnah’s of the time, as well as for the masses. If anything, it only strengthened their resolve to come back stronger with a more powerful force. Thus, one sees the progression from the demand of Swaraj to complete independence.

We have the example of a revolutionary like Bhagat Singh, how he carried out a non-fatal bombing inside an assembly hall and offered to face trial to ensure his voice was heard. From Rani Laxmibai to Tipu Sultan from Subhash Chandra Bose to Chandrashekhar Azad, we have numerous examples that demonstrate this continuity of struggle carried out from a position of numerical insignificance, and logistical deficit yet proved crucial in achieving independence.

During the Quit India movement, when all the top luminaries were put behind bars, the masses took it upon themselves to devise new and innovative ways like Prabhat Pheris and Individual Satyagraha, and the youth took it upon themselves to fill the leadership void. The same trend was visible earlier, when the struggle did not die, even when the Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience movements were called off. From contemporary times, we have the example of how isolated brave hearts from media rattled the establishment so much, that the Prime Minister did not attend a single press conference in the last five years.

We’ve Got Fascism To Battle

With the country at large, showing no signs of collective action, one can only believe so far as the vision allows. There is, however, definitely much more to it than meets the eye, and certainly, not all of it is hidden from sight. Fascism is indeed here and now, as was rightly pointed out by Mahua Moitra.

Taking cues from a poster outside the US Holocaust Memorial, she contextualised the seven early signs of fascism in India, in her maiden House address. Its reach is as far and absolute, as was that of Great Britain, on the Indian subcontinent, at the height of imperialism. That people have chosen to adapt and adjust is precisely the reason its proponents, members of the RSS, have survived and flourished for over ninety years. The compromise with forces, having more than discernible fascist tendencies, that ended up ripping apart the country, into two halves at the dawn of independence, was the original sin which the present generation of progressives is only building upon with their inaction.

Is there a more striking example of tolerance, shown by the progressive forces, to the majoritarian tendencies, than that of what went into the shaping of the Constitution? Such as those in  Article 1, relating to the name of the country, India i.e., Bharat, Article 25(a)(b), facilitating homogenisation and consolidation of Hindu identity, by having an assimilationist attitude towards Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists; Article 48, Prohibiting cow slaughter; Article 341 and the resultant presidential orders, defining Scheduled castes and conferring privileges, thereupon effectively restricting Muslims from state-sponsored affirmative actions; Article 343, declaring Hindi as the official language of the union, and additionally, according it status of national official language and the language of union and center-state exchanges; Article 351, directive for the development of Hindi language and promotion of its vocabulary by relying primarily on Sanskrit and inclusion of Sanskrit in eighth schedule, spoken by a only a few hundred people while keeping out  dozens of tribal languages.

So, Where Are The Revolutionaries?

Ever since the election results, there has been a sudden spurt in hate crimes in the name of religious symbolism. In the past two months alone, over a dozen such cases have been reported in the media where there have been major violations committed against members of minority communities. Perhaps for the first time in recent memory, Parliament became the podium for communal sloganeering, and the Treasury bench stooped to new lows with its acts of professional heckling. Meanwhile, the rest of the country sleeps.

The roar of the few well-intentioned progressives is lost in the din of majoritarian jubilation, yet, it deserves no sympathy for its influence is ritualistic, at best. Similarly, the fight against fascism would also not benefit from self-flagellation or appealing to the moral faculties of the oppressor. Any conclusive fight to restore citizenship rights can only commence by acknowledging it as a real fight for independence. A fight where there would be no luxury of a Gandhi or Ambedkar, Jinnah or Azad, but only a hope for a better future as the guiding light. Not five, not ten, but the oppressed must brace up for a hundred years of struggle and more, to reclaim citizenship rights. Any interim respite and the fight will only get prolonged. With the task being set and the travails of the many a long dark night waiting to embrace, it is time for citizens to join together in the fight for freedom.

But, amid all this chaos, where are the revolutionaries? Have they already left?

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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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