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On PM Modi’s ‘Vikas’ Train, The Last Stop Was Always A Hindu Rashtra

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We fool ourselves if we believe that CAA is a bolt from the blue. It is rather like the fruit of a tree which has been nurtured over the years. This tree of anti-minority animus has grown and flourished through collective farming. Several of those who now protest against CAA have helped pave the way for it by omissions and commissions one way or another.

A curious feature of our present national predicament is the unwillingness to see what stares us in the face. Especially in recent years, a desperate eagerness to believe otherwise than the proverbial writings on the wall has been evident. A broad stroke of anti-Muslim sentiment has marked many events on our political landscape. This had paved the way to BJP’s rise to power. We have to be willfully blind to fail to see that the BJP’s politico-cultural mission banks as much on Muslim-hate as it does on Congress-spite.

It is no secret that the RSS-ordained mandate for the BJP is the establishment of the Hindu rashtra. The BJP is neither secretive nor apologetic about it. (If any vestige of doubt lingers in this regard, just examine BJP’s ticket distribution at elections.) If this is not discussed and its implications examined in light of the identity of India as a ‘socialist, secular, democratic republic’, it is not because the on-going crafting of the Hindu rashtra is undertaken surreptitiously or ambiguously. It is only that it has become our common trait to be ‘willfully unable’ to see what babes and suckling can.

BJP’s politico-cultural mission banks as much on Muslim-hate as it does on Congress-spite.

From the ideological angle of Hindutva, the presence of the two religious minorities whose holy lands are external to the boundaries of India are presumed to be sources of corruption for the ethno-cultural homogeneity of India. The clumping together of Jains and Sikhs as Hindu cultural sub-sets, as Savarkar does, is manifestly arbitrary. It does not have the endorsement of these religious communities.

The cultural homogeneity thus improvised becomes the frame of reference for stigmatizing the otherness of Muslims and Christians—Muslims, more than Christians. To this day, there has been no public debate on the validity of this premise. It is just taken for granted. The Holy Land today is not a religious, but a tourist destination even for Christians!

So, tourism, not religion, is the basis on which the ‘otherness’ of my religious identity is invented, though Christianity has been practised in India at least for 1700 years. But parameters of hate and exclusion are not rational categories, and for that reason, they do not lend themselves to factual, rational discussion.

But Muslims and to a lesser extent Christians, have played a role in lending legitimacy to this Hindutva prejudice by refusing to outgrow a superstition they share with all religious communities. That superstition is rooted in the tribal mindset by which gods are inseparable from the land. This quaint superstition also exists in all Indian religions.

It is this that makes Ram Janmabhoomi an emotive issue. In our tribal imagination, a god cannot be de-linked from his place of birth. The same mentality makes Muslims go to Mecca to revive their religiosity and to pelt stones at Satan! They should be thanked for believing that Satan is wholly absent from India, but they are not!

The truth is that though a Christian, I feel no connection with the Holy Land. There is logic to it. The biblical faith is universal. True, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. True, he was crucified on Calvary and was buried in the soil of that blood-soaked region. But these are accidental historical trappings like the clothes that you and I wear.

It is stupid to argue that I cannot step out of my clothes or exist without them! If that is so with a human being, it is a million times truer in the case of gods, for they are, by definition, universal. Ram, as the Lord of Righteousness, is not a local, tribal deity but a universal light. That universality is insulted by the imposition of the trappings of tribal-ity on him.

We fool ourselves if we believe that CAA is a bolt from the blue.

When BJP spokespersons or party big-wigs argue that the CAA has the support of a majority of the people of India, they are not off the mark, even if this argument stands on an illusion of majority, head-counted via the Parliament. The majority support the CAB received in both houses of the Parliament does not prove a numerical majority of voters nationwide in support.

The significance of the spiralling protest is that it debunks this fiction of ‘majority-endorsement’. It underlines the fact that a majority of votes in Parliament need not correspond to a majority of citizens in support. It interrogates the premises of people’s representation. How is the representative of the people of India the legislation created by our lawmakers?

But the present protest, too, will subside soon. (Believe me, the vivisection of J&K was a test dose of this medicine.) It will be crushed under an iron heel. There will be irony in this too. The USP of the Modi government is the power it exudes. Amit Shah becoming the Home Minister has increased this impression exponentially, and rightly too. What is often overlooked is that ‘power’ is a double-edged sword. It bludgeons others; it can crack your skull too. Shock and awe is the operating style of the present government. Given that, the outcome of this skin-rash of resistance is only entirely predictable.

CAA and pan-Indian NRC are here to stay. Millions will be denationalized. A veritable ocean of human suffering will come into being. Its redeeming feature will be that it will be blacked out of public view. The stateless will be faceless. We will get used to it by and by and learn to get along as we would in the wake of an epidemic or earthquake. A time will come when we may not even mention their existence in polite conversation, public or private.

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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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