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How Our 71st Republic Day Reminds Us Of A Struggle For An Egalitarian Democracy

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The day of January 26, 1950 has a significant role in modern Indian history. On this day, India’s Constitution that claims not just a sense of equality and social justice, but also the notion towards egalitarian democracy was adopted.

At the time of adoption of the Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar in his speech warned that we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of ‘one man, one value.’ Dr Ambedkar, a great proponent of egalitarian democracy, highlighted very clearly the problem of both society and constitution.

Dr Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee and he recognised the diversity of Indian society as well as the notion of equality and social justice at the key principle of democratic processes. Besides this, Dr Ambedkar also fought for equality and social justice in his life, in the constitutional provisions many other encounters where he defended the equal status for all the people of this country at all levels, excluding caste and religious practices.

It is one of the greatest premises of Indian democracy and it gives legitimacy to all struggles, which are still going on against the practice of the Hindu caste system and religious fundamentalism.

A scene from one of many anti-CAA protests across the country.

In Dr Ambedkar’s view, the caste system and religious fundamentalism have been a key exploitative force in Indian society. Without the annihilation of both anti-social elements, India’s democracy cannot perform and provide justice to the entire population of this country.

But, it is also a horrible fact that the larger population in the country are still fighting for justice and equality, and an uncountable number people have died for the same. From Chhattisgarh to the northeast, from Bihar to Kanyakumari – everywhere, people from different marginalised communities are still struggling to get their basic of justice and equality while also carrying Dr Ambedkar’s mission of egalitarianism in their hearts.

Besides this, the Constitution of India in which Dr Ambedkar has given a special provision for the people of different marginalised communities clearly articulates the vision for social and political emancipation. It is one of the tasks of this Constitution and also a sign of continuing struggle which has been going on against different forms of exploitation for thousands of years.

But, this struggle has begun more fervently after the proponent of Hindutva politics came into power in 2014. It is a challenging condition against the Indian democracy and the notion of equality and justice that Dr Ambedkar claims through the Constitution.

The result of 2014 and 2019 general elections in this context marked the consolidation of Hindutva forces. The sweeping victory of these forces in 2019 and the method through which victory has been achieved have defined a disastrous social and political condition against not just a minority of this country but also against the marginalised those who were still struggling and fighting for their basic rights.

With the objective of replacing India with a Hindu Rashtra, the right wing and hundreds of its frontal originations have been involved at every level to manipulate the notion of the Hindu Rashtra by utilising every institution of Indian democratic system.

Sharpening communal polarisation and an anti-minority sentiment among a particular social class has created a narrative of cultural nationalism, Hindu Rashtra and jingoism across the country over the last five years. As a result, the entire population of India has not just divided the basis of religion but also mobilised to attack on minorities and the people who have been critical of the government or the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.

It is a historical fact that the civilisation(s) in India has not been Hindu-centric, rather it has had diverse social and cultural roots through which the notion of secularism emerged in India. The claim of a superseding Hindu civilisation by political right wing forces in this concern is a well-defined project to replace the Indian Constitution with a Hindu Rashtra.

The implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, in this case, is the next step through which the Government of India will not only give citizenship on the basis of religion but also make it mandatory to subscribe to the social lows dictated by the Hindu religion.

The Constitution of India and Dr Ambedkar’s vision of democracy does not allow any such basis of the Hindu religion to overtake a secular country. The Constitution of India stands for equal treatment to all the people following basic instincts of human value and not the value of religion, regionalism and caste.

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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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