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If The CAA Is Democratic And Upholds The Constitution, Why Is India Burning Today?

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Power, when left unchecked, has the potential to corrupt and currently, the Indian society is a witness to such an unpopular means of wielding power by the present-day government. The ruling party is of the opinion that the ongoing people’s movement in Assam, against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), is a misguided protest being led by political groups with a vested interest; when the fact remains that Indian people, from all walks of life, have given their mandate against the enforcement of CAA.

At the heart of this movement are implicit issues such as identity, development, competing interests, good governance and social justice. The masses of people are openly boycotting the Citizenship Amendment Act, with slogans such as “Go back Modi”, “Go Back Amit Shah” and “Joi Axom”,  which indicates the anger and distress that unites the collective in Assam, as well as other parts of India.

The issue which pertains to identity has always incited a passionate response from the people of Assam, who are quite unnerved and perturbed by the enactment of the CAA.

CAA is regarded by the general public of Assam, and elsewhere in India, to be unconstitutional and anti-citizen in nature, this understanding stems from the forceful quality of its implementation. For example, suspending and blocking internet services within Assam and other parts of the Northeast, and the imposition of section 144 in Bengaluru as a means to suppress the spontaneous resistance by the people.

After a week without any means to establish communication with the rest of the nation, a lot of pertinent questions emerged. Were the killings of those five odd people, in a riot-like situation, across Assam, by the state police, justified?  The police are supposed to ensure the safety of its people and not indulge in brutality. Why is India burning today, if the CAA law is democratic and upholds the vision of the constitution for its people? What development are we talking about today, the development of economy or Hindutva?

Assamese Identity

Assam, as a society, has always been embroiled in quarrels related to identity since its inception. The issue which pertains to identity has always incited a passionate response from the people of Assam, who are quite unnerved and perturbed by the enactment of the CAA. What does CAA entail for the Assamese community as a whole unit?

By a unit, I mean the tribal and the non-tribal communities of Assam. It’s crystal clear that the Assamese identity is under threat which includes both the tribal identity and the non-tribal identity. However, in the light of the recent events, each side seems to have a subjective interpretation of the effects of the CAA itself. The outcome of such diverse opinions on the law, is dividing the country, which is exactly the response that the government wants to extract out of its people at the moment.

The CAA has been successful in highlighting the friction which has existed between the so-called illegal immigrants and the totality of Assam, and it dates back to the Assam Agitation against “foreigners” from 1979 to 1985. The demand of the movement was to send back the illegal immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to their own homelands and we see the revival of a similar demand in 2019.

It is evident that it has taken a long time for the government to find a solution to the concerns of the people of Assam and it has taken the form of CAA. At present, the Assamese people feel marginalised in their own state, as a result of the heavy influx of people from Bangladesh.

As per NRC, 1.9 million of Assam’s residents are not the citizens of India and the total population of the state is currently 33 million, which includes the illegal immigrants as well. The Assamese community questions who will provide these people with jobs and a place to stay? The demography in many regions in Assam has changed over a period of time, where the illegal immigrants outnumber the Assamese people themselves. Another question resurfaces; what constitutes the Assamese Identity, precisely?

I have observed the communities of Assam become united when they contrast themselves from the “foreigners” as we have witnessed in recent times.

The Tribal Question

I vividly remember the day when my father and I were on our way to Tezpur, and he narrated the Nellie Massacre, as we were crossing Nellie. He told me that it was one of the first communal riots which ever took place in the history of Assam, between the Bodos and the illegal immigrants, comprising of Muslims in the year 1983.

The massacre claimed the lives of 2191 people on both sides and left several children orphaned; years later, I discovered that the NGO called the SOS village, provided shelter to these children with no place to call their home.

I recall a similar incident from Bongaigaon, in the year 2012, when the illegal immigrants and the Bodos had a violent confrontation, where countless people lost their lives again on both sides. It is very difficult indeed to resonate or understand the motivation behind such violent outbursts, but nevertheless important, in the context of the CAA.

One of the primary reasons for such aggression on the part of the tribal communities of Assam is severe land alienation. The tribal communities are largely dependent on agriculture, even today, and the occupation of the illegal immigrants of tribal lands becomes problematic. What is the alternative to ensure peace between the Bodos and the illegal immigrants? If we push this problem for a later day, it is likely that we will observe more episodes of violence in Assam even in the near future.

The Bottom-Up Approach

The CAA should be reviewed and the Centre should approach the enactment of this law in a bottom-up fashion and not otherwise. The emphasis should be on a process of dialogue between the government of the day and all the stakeholders, who will get directly or indirectly affected by the implementation of such an insensitive Act. The Centre should rethink its strategy in appeasing the people of India, by uniting the people, rather than reviving its age-old strategy of divide and rule.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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