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120 Days And Counting: Kashmir’s Identity Remains Under Siege

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“Gar firdaus bar roo-e-zamin ast, hami ast o-hami ast o-hami ast.”

“If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

These are the famous lines by the 13th century mystic poet, Amir Khusro. These lines were repeated by the fourth Mughal emperor, Jahangir, when he first saw the beauty of Kashmir.

Undoubtedly, if he got to see Kashmir at present, he would probably say, “There were people dying everywhere getting massacred in every town and village, there were people being picked up and thrown into dark jails in unknown parts, there were dungeons in the city where hundreds of young men were kept in heavy chains and from where many never emerged alive, there were thousands who had disappeared leaving behind women with photographs and perennial waiting, there were multitudes of dead bodies on the roads, in hospital beds, in fresh martyrs’ graveyards and scattered casually on the snow of mindless borders.”

I hope you all are quite familiar with the condition of Kashmir right now. Well, as an average Indian, I am not supposed to say a word about what I know but anyway, I can write, at least here.

A scene from Srinagar. Civilian life has been dotted with the presence of armed forces for decades in the valley, serving as a pressing reminder that the state is under constant siege. (Photo: Kashmir Global/Flickr)

First of all, I would like to take you all to 1947 and recapitulate the history of Kashmir and Article 370.

In 1947, we ushered into independence and freed ourselves from the shackles of servitude and subjection after more than 200 years of vivisection by the British. But unfortunately, our country was partitioned, the British had already fanned the flame and divided our people on communal lines.

After this partition, we were left with what we call India, our motherland. Our national leaders with their unparalleled political acumen decided that we should be strong militarily so that foreign agencies think twice before trying to sabotage the unity of India. Our administrative power should be streamlined in order to enable it to see that the guilty are immediately brought to book.

Last but not the least, our international image also needs to be refurbished and our policy of non alignment should be truly non-aligned. Clearly, our leaders focused more on maintaining unity as it is rightly said that, United we stand, divided we fall.

Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel worked a lot towards this direction. He put herculean efforts in merging the princely states with India. The most irksome of all are believed to be Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir.

Hyderabad was annexed after full fledged war with the Nizam of Hyderabad, Junagadh was supposed to join India as it was a Hindu majority state but its ruler being Muslim planned to join Jinnah’s Pakistan and this infuriated Patel. Patel was not at all interested in Kashmir as the majority was Muslim and it was understood for Kashmir that it would go with Pakistan.

Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, wanted to remain independent but suddenly Pakistan attacked and the whole picture has changed. Hari Singh asked for help from India. Patel being extraordinarily scrupulous, asked Hari Singh to sign the Instrument of Accession and he signed it but on the condition that Kashmir would be an autonomous entity and there would be laws which limit the powers of Indian parliament regarding the matter of Kashmir.

On October 26, 1947, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. In 1949, the Constitution of Kashmir or Article 370 of Indian Constitution was drafted. In 1954, Article 35A was added to it and finally in 1956, it came into force.

Gradually, the ideology of fundamentalism based on obscurantism or may I say, Wahhabism, took over Kashmir and terrorised it.

As a result, the Armed Forces Special Power Act was imposed on Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. In 2015, Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party entered into an unholy alliance with BJP which in turn resulted in making Mufti, a Chief Minister of Kashmir. By 2018, the BJP had cut ties with the PDP and President’s Rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2019, BJP came back to power at the centre with breast thumping victory. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was clearly mentioned in their manifesto. So, they did so without consulting any Kashmiri, not even politicians like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

For the first time, BJP kept their promise to the voters. They held a security lockdown in Kashmir so that no one could come out of their houses and question the government, they banned the media so that the Kashmiris couldn’t reach out anyone for help and now, they are petrifying Kashmiris by conducting atrocities on regular basis and we as responsible citizenry of India won’t say a word until amd unless some brutal pictures from Kashmir function as little jabs of electricity, shocking us into action.

It is an irony that for material resources like land, forest, soil and minerals, human resources like human energy, intelligence and the inherent goodness of man, etc. sold themselves out.

Today, governments are busily engaged in armament race. Every country spends millions for inventing or possessing destructive weapons but none spends a fraction of it in preventing such actions and maintaining human rights.

Plato and Aristotle postulated an idealistic theory of state in which the state was viewed as a moral institution essential and natural for moral development of the individual. The Renaissance emphasised the dignity of man who was endowed with reason and was the master of his destiny. The divine right theory of state was replaced by the social contract theory, propounded by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.

The American Declaration of Independence, 1776 asserted, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”

The French Declaration of rights of man, 1789 claimed, “men are born free & equal in respect of their rights.”

These ideals led to formation of human rights which are suppose to be universal, inalienable, interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. But what about the human rights of Kashmiris? Aren’t they human?

When the language has been butchered and bled out of meaning how do we understand our power and duty to stand against the wrong?

Today, freedom means occupation, democracy means neo-liberal capitalism, reform means repression, words like empowerment and peace make your blood run cold.

It’s high time for all of us to call a spade, a spade. Wake up! Please don’t let them change the definition of humanity, open the curtain of your spirit.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Getty Images.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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