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Citizenship Act: Assam’s Quashed Narrative

In December 2019, when the entire nation was still in a state of ignorance regarding the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has been deemed by many as unconstitutional and discriminatory, there echoed strong voices of dissent in Assam. Voices that articulated from every corner, crosscutting religious, linguistic, class and caste-based distinctions.

While mainland India was taking its normal course, in the so-called hinterland, people took their right to dissent and displayed it, enormously, in the streets. People from different age groups, which included college students and senior citizens, raised their voices to protect their identity which is dear to any individual. Even after continuous state-interventions (curfew, internet suspension, etc.), the people of Assam continued their ‘satyagraha’ against the evil of CAA, which threatens their very identity.

While Assam was protesting, the mainland population continued to remain ignorant about the whole issue which has concerned Assam for decades; the issue of ‘illegal’ immigrants from erstwhile East Pakistan challenging the demography, resources, culture, and identity of the people of the state.

Image source: Gaurav Kashyap Dutta/Twitter.

Factually, the population speaks volumes about the culture and ethnicity of a region. The distinctive cultural diversity of Assam is known to be vibrant and is adored by its people, but it lacks mainland appreciation. The population is also necessary for the sustainable socio-economic development of a region.

One of the determinants of population growth in any region is migration, and with the influx of immigrants since Independence, the state has seen high population growth as compared to other Indian states. According to the 2011 Census report, the decadal population growth of Assam was 16.9 % which is comparatively higher than states like West Bengal (13.9%), Odisha (14%), Punjab (13.7%), Karnataka (15.7%), Maharashtra (16%), etc.

Assam, being at the center of economic underdevelopment, is also dependent on central aid. The prolonged discomforts of inflation and unemployment have also been hampering the socioeconomic stability of the region. With the onset of climate change and its subsidiaries like deforestation, it has become an alarming issue, as this region and its people face the threat of flooding every year leading to loss of life and property. Thus, addressing the issue of ‘illegal’ immigrants and its effects on the demography, socio-economic and environmental sustainability is the need of the hour.

Police brutality against students.

The CAA came as a shock to the rest of the country only after the students of Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were recently brutally attacked by the police forces for protesting. Even now, when the whole country is protesting against CAA, the issue of Assam and its people are not talked about.

The pan-Indian protests focusing on the discrimination based on religion with respect to the Act fails to address the issue of every Assamese. For Assam, it was never about religion. It was, and is, a generational struggle for their identity. As an Indian from the hinterland, there is a legit concern regarding marginalising the issue of Assam, even if we are fighting a common enemy.

The promises of the Assam Accord, 1985, are yet to be fully implemented, regarding the provision for constitutional, legislative, administrative, economic, and political safeguards for the people of Assam. This memorandum of settlement, which brought an end to the Assam Agitation, where a thousand lives were lost, is still an alien concept for many in the mainland.

Since the Accord, various governments were formed and various were rejected, but still, the proper solution hasn’t arisen. The essence of betrayal is still relevant in Assam with the recent promulgation and formation of CAA. Every political party since Assam Accord of 1985 came in power with the promise of solving the ‘foreigner’s issue’ but only tokenistic measures were taken with respect to the clauses of the Assam Accord.

The solutions ranging from economic development to inclusive growth are still far-fetched from being applied practically. The failure of the National Register of Citizen, 2019, adds to the poor implementation of the government mechanisms.

Image source: Ruhina Parvez/Twitter.

The question here is why the mainland population continues to be unaware and ignorant about the whole issue concerning Assam. India is known for its diversity, but many Indians remain unaware of it.

Featured image credit: Gaurav Kashyap Dutta/Twitter.
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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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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