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“Gandhi’s Spirit And Legacy Lives On Through The CAA+NRC Protests”

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It all started with protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) respectively; the dark day that witnessed the police entering the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) campus, Delhi University campus and JNU.

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

Videos surfaced showing how brutally students and others were being treated by the police. This shows how far we have come as a people’s democracy. It is, however, still unclear who the actual miscreants were, sabotaging the public property. It is in these protests and simmering discontent that we can see the ‘real India’. The same ‘Hindustan’ which got freedom after years of struggle and national movements.

On a daily basis, we have been watching and reading about the protests, their causes, and consequences for society. Apart from the sociological impacts, more and more emphasis is being given to “What it means to be an Indian?”

From Dr S. Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda, M.K.Gandhiji to Jawaharlal Nehru, we have been getting to learn more and more about ‘What their idea of India meant’ or ‘What India meant to them?’

This protest has not only been about the CAA and the NRC, but there is more to it. I tried to find out the real meaning behind the attempts to rule by muzzling dissent and its effects. For the same, I used M.K.Gandhiji’s vision when it comes to self-rule in his book titled ‘Hind Swaraj’.

I, being a pacifist and a follower of Satyagraha, endeavoured to bring out the truth behind these protests. The rage against this ‘inequality’ was common among all, making it a youth-driven movement. From Jamia, JNU to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), all came out and raised the slogans in unison for the nation.

With the help of Gandhiji’s quotes, which I shall be using throughout this article, I will highlight what this protest is about and what would Gandhiji (Bapu) has said about these voices of dissent.

In one of the primers to what he meant by Swaraj, Bapu expounded, in great detail, on self-rule, wisdom, freedom, patriotism, evils of society, civilization, and much more. These values or terms, more or less, have been in the news for their respective meanings, which can be subjective in nature.

A clear understanding of all this and the protests will throw light towards the direction that this whole debate is now taking. Through Bapu’s lens, I will try to figure out what is wrong and how can it be tackled.

What would Mahatma Gandhi think about the events unfolding around us today?

#Gandhiji On ‘Unrest’

“Unrest is, in reality, discontent. This discontent is a very useful thing. As long as a man is contented with his present lot, so long is it difficult to persuade him to come out of it. Therefore it is that every reform must be preceded by discontent. “

If we are to decode Bapu’s words here, we can come to the understanding that discontent in the larger picture is not bad at all; it is in fact needed to come out of one’s comfort zone. That very act of coming out to dissent may result in some reforms, progressive moves, and more.

#Gandhiji On ‘Strength’

“Strength lies in the absence of fear, not in the quantity of flesh and muscle we have on our bodies.”

The real strength of the protesters who have raised their voices against the legislation shows how strong they are. Print and electronic coverage showed people from all walks of life coming out and getting flogged, lathi-charged. The police even used tear gas and other dispersal techniques, to no avail. The undeterred minds kept protesting against what they consider as unconstitutional and against equality.

Police attacking protestors in and around Jamia Milia Islamia campus.

#Gandhiji On ‘Physician’

“He is a true physician who probes the cause of disease.”

If we pay close attention here, we can say that PM Narendra Modi is the physician here. Either he has not been able to probe the cause or he has been deliberately ignoring it! God knows the truth, but it is his duty to pay heed to all those who have been protesting on the roads and the streets for so many days.

#Gandhiji On ‘Passive Resistance’

“Passive resistance is an all-sided sword, it can be used anyhow; it blesses him who uses it and him against who it is used.”

Had Bapu been here today, he would have been so proud of the youth of this country. The forms of protest, which have majorly been non-violent, means Bapu is still alive. His values, soul, morals are with us. This is what makes us India- Bharat (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).

#Gandhiji On ‘Claypot’

“A clay pot would break through impact, if not with one stone, then with another. The way to save the pot is not to keep it away from the danger point but to bake it so that no one would break it.”

The clay pot here is our demographic dividend, which is not shakable, it is just unbreakable. Slogans of ‘We shall overcome one day‘, distributing roses, and other non-violent techniques have been the approach to get their voices heard in the corridors of power. The powerful values of Bapu and Satyagraha are still a force to be reckoned with.

#Gandhiji On ‘Evil’

“Evil has wings. To build a house takes time. Its destruction takes none.”

Here Bapu tried to say that it is easier to destroy than to build. The same goes for our beloved nation, from freedom fighters to all those soldiers who got martyred for our freedom, their sweat and blood should not go in vain. These protests have united us as citizens of the country, one that is known for its heterogeneity and unity in diversity.

#Gandhiji On ‘Justice’

“One who seeks justice will have to do justice to others.”

I found this to be the most important quote to conclude this write-up with, as it contains more than what meets the eye. When we talk about principles of justice, our Preamble and Constitution guarantee us the same. But, seeking justice has to be complemented by doing justice to others too, meaning the citizenry here, by the lawmakers.

We, the citizens of India, have declared our allegiance to secularism, justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, and these constitutional values make us who we are.

After so much uproar and ruckus over the CAA legislation and NRC exercise, it is now imperative, for the government and the judiciary too, to independently look for the unconstitutional elements in it (if any), because the government, which is currently running the world’s largest democracy, is accountable to the people of this country.

The spirit of this movement against inequality and muzzling of dissent shows that Bapu is still alive in all of us; we are the carriers of his legacy and shall continue to do so.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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