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“What Happened At JNU Is Terrifying And A Reflection Of A Govt That We Cannot Trust”

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A mob of 50-odd, masked people entered the JNU campus and attacked students and teachers on 5th Jan 2020.

No one saw this coming. The violence against JNU students and faculty members that continued for hours due to police inaction shook us and broke us. Students and teachers shouldn’t have to fear for their lives in their hostel rooms and universities. How is this the new norm? We’ve run out of words to condemn violence in newer ways now.

There are stories of brutality that will emerge in the coming days. Before you share them on online platforms, please try to add trigger warnings where you can, and try to verify every news source. This goes for the ongoing CAA and NRC protests too. It’s not about sharing it everywhere “first” right now. It’s about sharing it with as much emotional balance as we can muster. For public platforms, it’s also about “how to support the cause” or “how to spread relevant information calmly” or “how to peacefully protest” instead of “how to deal with trolls who only wish to degrade and insult”.

Invest. Energy. Wisely.

Try to understand this is a long battle. For those of us who were asleep in our privileges for long (this co-admin of @iwillgoout2017 included), let these past months serve as a final wake up call. For those who taught us patiently, we are forever grateful. Now that we’ve seen the ugliness inside ALL of us, know that this fight will stretch for years.

Not just the fights with our conscience, guilt and constant lack of knowledge (keep learning), but the battle against everyday fascism around us, that we need to wage on a deeper, calmer and more holistic level; that requires us to rely on information and if we can, create channels of information that will serve to solve, not isolate or divide.

Mumbai saw a protest against the JNU violence at Gateway of India at midnight.

I know it seems that any time we think it’s all too much, we receive yet another blow. JNU, we stand with you. Jamia, AMU, all the anti-fascist, beautiful, educated youth of this finally-infuriated-as-one country – we stand with you.

Our Muslim family. We stand with you. Uttar Pradesh, we stand with you. Kashmir and our North Eastern family, who are rightfully disappointed in the rest of us for not listening to them. We stand with you. I don’t mean to forget anyone. Forgive me.

Anyone who’s been affected by the fascism of this government, you reality-shattered, security-threatened, sad and helpless, impassioned and boiling with strength, determined and revolutionary, clear-eyed and truth-tongued, suddenly younger and stronger, pained but witty individual – we stand with you. Every community, gender, sexual orientation, religion and caste that is a minority and is marginalised, you are at the forefront of every battle. You have always taught us how to fight. We stand behind you.

We’ve never had to work so hard towards hope. Sometimes, some of us fail at it too. And that’s okay. Please rest to protest. But there’s always someone to pick up the flak. Someone who tells us to rest while they wrap us in a blanket and go off to protest in their own way, with a wink and a smile. There’s no dearth of protestors. There’s no death of love and truth. There’s so much of it that it’s been spilling out on the streets, demanding Aazadi with tea, biscuits and funny posters every day. And I’m not just talking about the ones on the street.

Every person who’s taken it upon themselves, to be as involved as they are able, in supporting the movement and voicing their opinions, you are gems. Thank you. Every person who’s trying to educate people in their immediate surroundings. Thank you. The first responders, the activists, the generous citizens, the lawyers, the medical staff, the journalists, the fact-finding mission accomplishers, the caretakers, the influencers, the calm explainers of law, the writers, the artists, the content creators, the wholesome meme-developers who know we need to laugh, the degree-rejectors, the makers of delicate kolam. Thank you.

What happened at JNU on Jan 5, 2020, is terrifying and a reflection of a government that we cannot trust. We were and are heartbroken. I thought to myself, we can’t catch a break as a country. It’s overwhelming. Whenever we’re hit hard, we rage, we numb down, we reach out, we demand justice, we unite in pain. But the most breathtaking part of it all is, we MOBILISE.

Mumbai saw a protest against the JNU violence at Gateway of India at midnight. Jadavpur University at Kolkata, Pune’s Film and Television Institution of India, Aligarh Muslim University, that has recently suffered violence at the hands of police, and students in Hyderabad – students everywhere organised protests within a few hours on the same night. The attack on dissent at JNU took place around 7 pm.

In a few hours, we at ‘I Will Go Out’ and many other feminist pages on Instagram, received messages with protest posters, already made and ready to roll out with clear information on date, location and time of protest on Jan 6, across India as well as Toronto, New York and Oxford. No doubt there’s a lot more to come.

AMU student protest against JNU violence
AMU student protest against JNU violence.

What was tearfully significant was the protest at JNU. The site of violence where terror still hung in the air like a hammer. Delhi citizens came out in support after several appeals of mobilisation were shared on social media. There was no hesitation. They felt compelled to go. They needed to register their voice against the attack. They needed to replace the fear and hate with some love and hope. They needed to protest. The need to stand up against injustice is becoming effortless.

We’ve found comfort in strangers and synced in our reflexes. We are instantly turning towards peace and solutions. We’ve discovered that we’re all on the same page, and it’s never been so warm and cosy. Perfect time for winter. Whenever we can’t see hope, let’s try to remember these cold months haven’t just brought out the hate some have for others, they have brought out this enormous and unrelenting love we have for each other too.

We now know that they weren’t expecting this. They didn’t know we won’t give up. So remember, we are hope.

Unlike them, we are unmasked. Hum dekhenge.
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Image: Protest at AMU last night against #JNUviolence

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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.

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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.”

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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 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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