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My Letter To Fellow Citizens On The Chaos We Are Living Through

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Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), one of the best universities in India turned into a warzone. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) started catching the fire of the protests in JMI, JNU, IIMC, IITs, institutions that have already been fighting for the rollback in fee hike. Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA) has been on frequent ‘indefinite strikes’ since I started going to DU’s Bhagat Singh College in 2017.

Lately, during our end-semester exams, the association decided on the continuance of the indefinite strike with the boycott of invigilation, evaluation, and all other official duties to press for their demands. Where are we headed, MHRD? Already, with each passing year, there has been a cut down on education expenditure and no interest of the concerned authorities in investment in R&D, with only a few world-class universities renowned globally. What’s the name of those universities? IIT, JNU, DU, AMU, JMI, etc.? Are we sure? 

The price of onions has been towering high, milk prices have risen by ₹3, unemployment rates have been at an all-time high since the last 45 years, the GDP has been at an all-time low since 2014. Never mind, India’s ‘first full-time woman‘ Finance Minister has got it covered.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Before you label me a misogynistic, I’d say in my defence that I’m a proponent of feminism, but, in the case where you have to lead a country in a highly competitive cosmopolitan world, your gender shouldn’t become a priority over your capability and knowledge in the field. If you’re not fit for a job, you’re not fit. In my opinion, the saffron party’s most deserving, and perhaps one with extensive knowledge of economics, Subramanian Swamy has bluntly accepted that the economy has been performing poorly.

Supreme Court of India.

India’s ex-top judge was accused of sexual harassment. All-important cases related to human rights got postponed as ‘Mandir cases’ became more critical. Delayed justice to the family of rape-victim, an incident that saw the nation-wide protests, yes, it’s been almost seven years. Respectable judges, we are sure you need some time to look into cases for fair dissemination of justice, but haven’t you realised yet that they were the apparent perpetrators till date?

Working of the judiciary this way is undoubtedly discouraging for women, subjected to such structural violence, which leads to many cases settled outside the boundaries of our courts frequently. The Unnao rape case survivor wrote a letter to you, asking for security, as her life was threatened earlier this year. Taking late action didn’t prove to be in her favour.

A discriminatory and hasty Act related to the key populations was made leaving them prone to more structural violence but you didn’t consider to step in upholding their rights and dignity. Judiciary of India, we hope you are listening, or are still busy being friends with ‘Mizaru‘?

“The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.”

Media, the fourth pillar of any democracy of the world, or instead, I should call it the weakest in India’s case. I’m sorry, we don’t subscribe to your channel to not telecast issues that matter. We don’t wish to see if aliens have secretly inhabited parts of India or the prime time “debate” segments where badmouthing, and fundamentalism is seen at its best. 

Lately, in a news segment related to the weather forecast, it was reported that heavy snowing in the northern states and unusual hail storms took place in Rajasthan, making it look no less than a skiing site. What should have been expected of the news channels to educate citizens? Climate change? No, instead, in the segment lasting 10 minutes, what could be heard was, “an influx of tourists, traffic jams in the area, increased problems of locals on how they are unable to go commute properly.”

किसान
Representational image.

If only you could have focused on the agrarian crisis, the situation, the cause, and its relation with global warming, it would have been highly appreciable. Citizens are often found full of self-determination and anti-European sentiments, but a little bit of eurocentrism now and then, taken to observe the functioning of news channels never will not and shouldn’t hurt the 4th pillar of any democracy, I feel.

Though well-informed citizens have resorted to online media to curb the problem of fake news by verifying the same from various sources, the least you can do is to keep in check the authenticity, bias and relevance levels of the segments you telecast, keeping your political propaganda aside.

Rahul gandhi.

Rahul Gandhiji, we are quite confident that you’re not ‘Rahul Savarkar‘. But, your coalition partner, Shiv Sena (who idealises Savarkar for their own reasons which I think should be respected), and the Congress has a coalition in Maharashtra with them. Ideology; what? Your speaking skills are highly deplorable, and I feel that your comments on the sensitive issue were disgraceful.

It’s high time that you understand the fact that you can do anything but lead India. It’s high time that your family passes on the Kaman to some other Neta of your party, it has the potential, history is the proof.

Sisodiaji, we all are aware that Delhi has its election coming up in 2020. You need not fear as defending champions as you have done an excellent job for Delhi in the past five years, but let’s not politicise sensitive issues. 

Lekhiji, being a leader of the ruling party you need not pass your extreme ideology down to citizens, that people accused of rape and brutal acts trying to flee need to be shot on the spot. Also my fellow-citizens, I’m sure this is not a Hobbesian state of nature and anarchy doesn’t prevail here. We should have controlled our emotions and been rational enough to let the judiciary do its work and not commend our forces for taking law in its own hands. You could be next.

The CMs of Bengal (you demanded NRC and CAA in the past), Punjab, and Kerala, I feel that you’re not helping, rather aggravating the citizens leading to worsening of the situation by issuing statements such as “we’ll not let this act be imposed in our states.”

The subject falls under the Union list and if not cooperated with could lead to a breakdown of constitutional machinery in these states, which could further lead to President’s rule imposition in your respective states. I’m sure you don’t want that because the party in power surely does.

MP Mahua Moitra.

We can learn from leaders like Mahua Moitra and Jairam Ramesh on this, who have challenged the act in the Supreme Court. But you say that Supreme Court is biased, then what? We can’t and shouldn’t resolve to such anarchical situation. We need to challenge the party in-power constitutionally or wait for another five years. Because if the majority didn’t make them win, our faulty First Past The Post voting system did.

Fellow-citizens, It’s not funny when a particular community start living with increasing fear with each passing day. Do we talk about revenge for the past brutalities? Let’s start with ‘X-O’ game and with each passing match, destroying as a reparation of cruelties and discrimination in the past to reach a point where no exact falter can be defined?

Let’s observe how much damage can we cause by becoming pawns of anti-social elements. The feeling of calling ‘preferential treatment’ a form of reverse-discrimination also erupts within many of us from such feelings only.

Also, the extension of Sheikh Abdullah’s house arrest by three months and the firing of a Sanskrit-teaching-Muslim professor from a nation-wide known university reflects the competency, non-religious attitude and qualifications of the professor.

But, your happiness on these decisions at the same time reflects your Islamophobia which surely has discouraged any other individual belonging to communities other than Hinduism to dare to study these subjects. Yes, the same subjects which are losing their importance due to the jingoists’ lack of interest in them.

Speaking venomously of the leaders in power; wishing that the Prime Minister’s boat sinks while on a political sojourn; making fun of him while he slips on the stare isn’t funny. Criticising the government is a great move to keep a check on it but only until the point where a nation-state’s sovereignty gets threatened.

It further poses a serious question to a country’s position in international relations where some states don’t leave a stone unturned to benefit from such moves. Being mindful will prove to be rationale in worsening political environment. 

Delhi police attack unharmed students in and around Jamia Millia Campus. Image credit: Twitter

Moreover, It’s not humane of us to term the students of JMI as terrorists or blaming them for setting those buses ablaze. Without evidence, it’s not correct of us to target them finding an alibi to your subliminal Islamophobia.

Let’s not any ideology, statements or ulterior motives of political foes lead us to do something that hinders liberty of someone else or puts us in trouble. Everybody has their theories in context with JMI’s protests; in this all-time high right-wing populism.

I firmly believe that crushing JMI’s reputation would increase allegiance of the supporters to the power in the centre. How many Hindus do you think wouldn’t consider this riot while considering taking admission to the University? The harm caused to the University’s reputation is beyond reparations. One more brick has been laid in the wall separating (increasing) religious divide.

Dear anti-social elements and public property damagers while we highly condemn the government spending of our taxes on the construction of things that don’t even matter to most of us doesn’t give you a right to damage public property made for the betterment and convenience of citizens. We do not pay taxes on time and with full honesty to witness all this. 

To the celebrities and influencers who can’t stand for the right, You don’t deserve all that following if you can’t lead the masses in the times when your supporters need you. We didn’t make you what you’re today to attend political events and click selfies with perpetrators of toxicity and see you turning a blind eye towards us when we need you the most.

Assam and its mother’s, we feel sorry for you for the property damage and loss of children. We praise you for your stance on standing for your rights. We, Indians accept that the government now and ones in the past have done nothing substantial for you and your sisters. Still, we praise you for teaching us eye-opening lessons in the wake of the current unrest.

Internet shutdowns, stripping of secular values, mobs and their hooliganism is all that the nation has seen through your eyes. Kashmir, we stand in solidarity with you.

The Law and Order ministry, you came into being for responsibility to protect citizens and maintain order, not to beat up the youth, turning campuses into war zones or assaulting journalists or for that matter any human being. Reading the Constitution to understand your own and your fellow citizens’ fundamental rights will surely help you uphold human rights and give you an opportunity to reflect on your brutal actions towards students. 

Lawyers and opportunistic politicians attempt to recover your lost morals that you appear to have forgotten.

Let’s pause, speculate, discern and begin engaging with each other with more tolerance and prevent deriding the majoritarian faith/culture wholly as ‘wicked’ and dissent respectfully, even if they instigate you to not to.

In these times, we all need to become a reflection of Maulana Azad, Ambedkar and the ones who strongly upheld our constitutional values. Not who you want to overthrow at the right time with the right opportunity.

What we are headed towards is a leaderless movement to overthrow the saffron regime.

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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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