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From JNU To AMU: 5 Times Students Defined What India Wants, In 2019

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Students, in 2019, remained at the forefront, defending every possible right enshrined in our Constitution. When we say that India has the advantage of having a young population, it’s heartening, at least for me, to witness such protests staged by the young brigades of several universities.

Strategy Of Left Unity in JNU Student Election

They seem to be more informed than the people in power and are dedicated to lead us to a brighter future. And they, time-and-again, reminded the people in power that nothing is going unnoticed, and that they care for the country.

The protests, having semblances with the freedom struggle, demonstrated the values that formed the core of Indianness — non-violence, perseverance, and truth.

Here’s a sneak-peek at some of the major student-led protests that we saw this year. Please note that this series is presented as per the timeline in which these events occurred, starting from August 2019, till date.

1. Article 370 And Kashmir-Related Protests At JNU And UoH

The abrogation of Article 370 attracted major protests across India. In those protests, however, students from several central universities played a major role. The two universities that heavily condemned this move by the government were Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

On October 3, 2019, the Vice-Chancellor of JNU invited the Union Minister University of Hyderabad as the speaker at an event titled ‘Abrogation of article 370: Peace, Stability, and Development in Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.’

Students, however, were in no mood to entertain this triumphalism of gross violation of autonomy that the Valley saw post its annexation with India, and they registered their protest against it.

In solidarity with the Kashmiris, who are facing immense atrocities that the government has inflicted on them, students of UoH decided to organise a panel discussion. They demanded it to be held inside the university auditorium.

The permission, however, was denied but they were allowed to do it outside the auditorium on August 24, 2019.

Soon after the word of this discussion against the abrogation of Article 370 began to spread, the police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) started entering the university premises. The Caravan reported that “Students and faculty viewed this as an attempt to curb dissent and the freedom of expression of the student communities.”

After breaking into the university area, where the students staged non-violent protests against this move, the RAF put out a notice that read that “The police had imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Cyberadabad.” And, a university order that mentioned: “It is to inform that all the protests and agitations are prohibited in UoH campus with immediate effect.”

Interestingly, the next day, a report of Live Mint read that “Section 144 is not imposed in Cyberabad limits as the situation is normal.” People in power have their own ways to silence voices of resistance.

2. JU Students Against An Event Organized By ABVP

In an article, titled “Jadavpur University Protests: Whose Idea Of ‘Nation Building’ Do We Need?” and published three months ago on Youth Ki Awaaz, I wrote how the peaceful protests registered by students against Babul Spriyo’s invitation by the ABVP-organised event turned violent.

Image Source: The Indian Express

Several areas of the JU campus, and nearby areas, were set on fire by some ABVP and BJP goons. The police authorities mishandled the whole scenario, making it look like this was pre-planned and another attempt to brand the university students as anti-nationals, as it was done in the case of JNU in the events that followed February 2016.

A minister – BJP’s Dilip Ghosh – tried to do exactly that by remarking this: “The Jadavpur University campus is a hub of anti-national and communist activities. This is not the first time that such an incident has happened there. Just like our security forces conducted surgical strike to destroy terror camps in Pakistan, our cadres would also carry out the same type of surgical strike to destroy anti-national hubs in JU campus.”

Featured image source: Kajari Majumder/Facebook.

3. Climate Change Strikes

Credit: Fridays For Future

The only protests where even the school-going students participated, sending a strong signal that no one is too small to bring a change.

Amongst the uproar on several important issues, climate change issue, however, took a backseat, but was rightly so brought to the mainstream by students.

After Greta Thunberg began ‘Fridays for Future,’ in that school children took to the streets reminding authorities of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, Indian students soon followed.

Thunberg’s call for mass protests influenced Indian students, mainly from Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Kolkata. On September 20, 2019, they, at several public places of the aforementioned states, staged peaceful protests.

Image Source: Quartz India

4. Fee Hike Protests At JNU

On November 23, 2019, JNU students marched to the Parliament against the hike in hostel fees. Their demand was simple: Roll back the fee hike and make education affordable for all.

Image source: Stand with JNU/Facebook.

It was disheartening to see some ‘Twitterati’ starting a counter-narrative that said that the hike seemed justified to them. (For a detailed description, see ‘Twitter war rages over JNU protest,’ a November 19, 2019, report by Outlook India.) However, they were so insensitive and unconcerned of the fact that education indeed must be free, for it shouldn’t be dependent on ‘our background‘ to get a quality education.

Also, as a matter of fact, universities like JNU are the hub of students coming from underprivileged backgrounds, socially and economically marginalised groups to study. The hike, in turn, will cause further exclusion and will rob such students of a ray of hope for a better future for themselves and their families.

Image source: KholdoRadio/Facebook.

5. CAA Protests: JMI And AMU

The recent protests staged by the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI, New Delhi) against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 has faced the worst of the brutality that the people in power can put anyone through.

Students were insulted, beaten and, injured. The Delhi Police broke into the university library, vandalised the campus and fired tear gas shells. Many external agents that gave the peaceful protests a violent outlook, however, were let loose by the authorities.

In solidarity with JMI students, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)’s students also staged protests. However, both these universities’ campuses turned into war grounds, it seems.

Image Source: The Caravan/Twitter

The police broke into AMU’s premises as well, resorted to lathi-charge, and detained several students.

Over 60 students have been injured in this tussle between the students and the brute force with which the police personnel handled the situation. Since then, there has been a curfew imposed in Aligarh. The internet is down, so are television networks.

Delhi police attack unharmed students in and around Jamia Millia Campus. Image credit: Twitter
Featured image credit: Twitter, Fridays For Future.
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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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