A Unique Republic Day of Dissenting Voices

In India, we are going to celebrate our 71st Republic day. This is the day on which our Constitution was effectuated in 1950. This constitution is not a mere lifeless document; it is impregnated with  chants of freedom and democracy. This constitution has facilitated the formation of the bedrock of Indian democracy. This constitution has crystallized the pluralistic, egalitarian and humanitarian vision of India. The formation of a particular idea of India was not the exclusive task of a cohort of democratic experts. On the contrary, this constitution reflects the unrealized dream  of a spirited India that every citizen has imagined. On this Republic Day, we can nourish this dream of India by using our imaginative capabilities to visualize another idea of India.

The uniqueness of the pluralistic ethos of our Indian society is extremely different from the classic monoculturalism of western societies. For the healthy existence of this diversity, we need unshakable solidarity among the various different communities in the country. To actualise this solidarity, our society has to mutate into a dialogical space whose matrix is a catholic environment of non – xenophobia. An ecumenical atmosphere can only be established when we ourselves become conscious of our syncretic culture. People should recognise the indispensable need to explore their own history and culture. After this exploration, they will be able to develop a deep conviction in multiculturalism, and engage deeply in, what sociologist Avijit Pathak calls, ‘participatory introspection’. This introspection will culminate in self-awareness and people would begin to preserve this dazzling brightness of India’s heterogeneity. 

The deep-seated fissures in our societal structure are smoke signals, which clearly indicate that the foundational edifice of our society is slowly crumbling. This edifice includes the basic ethics that help in totalizing a disjointed society. In order to re-totalize our societal structure, we need to foster deliberation and discourse, which will drastically improve our external receptivity, and thereby revitalize our elementary ethics that possess a kind of cementing power. Apart from religious disharmony, there are conspicuous class divisions that are widening at breakneck speed. The citizens should observe these economic disparities rather than trying to disintegrate the internal structures of their own community. Nehru’s wish to radically restructure the society so that class-based inequalities could be reduced, remains unfulfilled. It seems as if now it is merely a chimera or a pipe dream. We should assiduously try to achieve the coherent unification of the subaltern classes so that they can challenge the hegemony of the ruling class.

Solidarity and Dissidence In Times of CAA and NRC

The cruciality of dissent and dialogue to the functioning of a democracy is a well-established fact. In India, we need to encourage dissidence and discourse, so that democratic equilibrium can be maintained. The ongoing anti-CAA protests have helped people realize the significance of a deliberative democracy. These protests are like beacons of hope, because the soul of India is engaged in a strenuous fight  right now. The lacerations are severe, but the people are now ever-present to suture these wounds. They have finally brought the rain of dissident and unfazed voices, whose magnitude is amplifying every day. Street mobilizations are vivid illustrations of an energetic democracy, for whose life and limb the citizens of India are fighting. The universities have critically enlightened themselves and the students have rightfully re-appropriated the Ambedkarite and Gandhian conceptions of democracy and struggle. These institutes have become cornucopias of creativity and slogans and gradually, the humane impulses of call for a freedom struggle are permeating the minds of ordinary citizens who, till now, were not utilizing their mental faculties.

The ongoing anti-CAA protests have helped people realize the significance of a deliberative democracy (Image provided by the author).

These protests have engendered the solidarity and unity that the constitutional principles wanted to bring about. Everyone is now experiencing democracy and has felt that it is the ‘democratic existential duty’ of every citizen to question any authoritarian machinery. To describe this change by the protests in the consciousness of the citizens, writer Badri Raina refers to Aristotle’s word ‘Anagnorisis’. Anagnorisis is the phenomenon in which the person undergoes a sudden critical enlightenment. This is precisely what is happening  all across India. Citizens are recognising the manipulative tactics being employed to suppress the emergence of self-consciousness.They now citizens not only apprehend the material reality in which they are situated, they also understand the relational causal factors behind this oppressive state of reality.

These protests can greatly contribute towards pursuing the unfinished dreams of India as imagined by our Constitution. These protests are following the Constitution as their directory. This means they are attempting to protect and simultaneously wage a constitutional struggle against the anti-democratic despots. 

This Republic Day will be distinctive because a constitutional fight to save the dignity of this Republic Day will be carried on. These protests will form the lively warp and weft of Republic Day, and  everyone will be in communion with this momentous day and will establish a revolutionary intensity which will illuminate this day. The day will be a clarion call for everybody to resist the thought police and display their vivacious democratic chutzpah. Everybody will slough off the fear of heterodoxy and univocally announce that ‘freedom is their imperishable birthright’.

 

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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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