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The Indian Civil Liberties Union: Providing Free Legal Aid To Those Left Out Of NRC Assam

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The Indian Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) is a network of lawyers, activists, paralegals and students across India who are committed to the protection of civil liberties. Conceptualized in 2018, the organization has since worked tirelessly to protect constitutional values and the rights and freedoms of citizens, and others. The organization has helped in the drafting of the anti-lynching law and implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines in case of lynching. They also reported on the violation of the Model Code of Conduct during the general elections of 2019. ICLU has also prepared easily accessible documents on several legislations ranging from the Right to Information Bill, 2019 to the National Register of Citizens in Assam. Through these documents, the people of India can easily understand their rights, privileges and duties as per the law.

In our work, we not only disseminate easily accessible information but also take it upon ourselves to fight for just causes. ICLU has also built a veritable online presence on social media, and it stays abreast of any development that is likely to impact the civil liberties afforded to the citizens of our country. It is continually growing in number, collaborating with the government, Non-Government Organizations, universities, individual organizations etc., so that it may expand its scope to cover human rights and humanitarian issues all across the country.

In Assam, almost two million people have lost their citizenship, their rights and privileges. This number includes genuine citizens who have stayed in India for decades; they have now been suddenly declared non-citizens. On September 9, 2019, a People’s Tribunal on the NRC Implementation process took place in which current and former judges and chief justices comprised the jury. They severely criticised the implementation of the Government and stressed on the plight of vulnerable sections comprising of women and children.

A large number of poor and impoverished migrant labourers working at construction sites or those who earn their living through rag-picking in many cities outside Assam were required to return for the process and were subjected to its arbitrary mechanisms, and this has affected their livelihood. In a number of cases, children born to single mothers or victims of polygamy were not mentioned in the family tree. This led to the exclusion of even small children from the final NRC and making them vulnerable to detention. This is why ICLU is committed to bringing justice to those excluded, to protect those threatened, to save those attacked and restore the rights of those whose rights were arbitrarily taken away.

ICLU reaches out to
Indian Civil Liberties Union reaches out to people who need help in the appeal process.

The organization led by Anas Tanwir, has become the first advocacy organization to reach and provide free legal aid to those left out of the final list of the NRC in Assam. In Assam, they provided paralegal training to students from National Law University, and Judicial Academy, Assam and around 30 students became a part of ICLU and assured to help them in their efforts. At Udalgiri, ICLU set up a free legal aid camp where almost four hundred people were helped. The ICLU team comprised of Anas Tanwir, Agastya Sharma Sen, Vinayak Pant and students of NLU-JAA.

The organization will be expanding to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and Hyderabad and are in talks for collaboration with various National Law Universities (NLUs) across India, as well as other universities and colleges. We want people to know that as far as pan India NRC is concerned, there is no need to fear but to be prepared with the relevant documents and details.

ICLU plans to set up a permanent legal aid clinic in the affected districts of Assam. The Paralegal programme of ICLU will be expanded across India so that every attendee is trained under practicing Supreme Court lawyers and will have practical knowledge about court proceedings and can help others with their knowledge, training and research with respect to the NRC. People trained by ICLU will have the opportunity to help hundreds of people who have lost their rights, their privileges, who have been disenfranchised and wrongly denied their rights.

As millions face statelessness, causing helplessness on an unprecedented scale, ICLU will act as an organization that helps in litigation and provides assistance to people in filing appeals to the Foreign Tribunals. Our efforts are a mere drop in the ocean, and much more is needed to be done. We all need to come together and make every effort to ensure a fair process is followed in the determination of citizenship status.

shikwa-e-zulmat-e-shab se to kahin behtar
apne hisse ki koi shama jalate jate

– Ahmed Faraz

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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