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Wondering What Life Is Like Without The Internet? Let A Kashmiri Explain.

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“Have you received the OTP?”

“Not yet.”

“This number is not working.”

“Check your email, has the password been sent?”

All they can say in an astonished tone is, “What? How come email will work when there is no internet?!”

Deep sighs, dropping voices, sad faces. Although I cannot see their faces but I can definitely sense and imagine the pain, restlessness and of course, the hopelessness in their voices. This is the story of my Kashmir and I am witness to all the emotional tales which I listen to everyday on the phone.

Sitting in a non-ventilated room in a congested Okhla flat in Delhi, my only two valuable possessions are a desktop and an android phone with internet with my earphone plugged in all the time. What is more special about these gadgets is that they sleep, eat, rest, walk and talk with me.

The journalism fraternity of Kashmir finally has come forward to request the authorities to lift this prolonged ban on internet services, and collectively held an interactive session ‘cyber curfew.’

Every day, I receive hundreds of calls from friends, relatives and people who know me directly and indirectly from Kashmir. The only purpose I serve for them is that I solve their queries here. I have the luxury of the internet here, and back home they have nothing.

Kashmir is now in the sixth month of an internet blackout in and one can imagine the loss and suffering of people. The worst sufferers have been the students. Apart from this, the economy and business has been totally devastated.

Roughly eight million inhabitants of the Kashmir valley have been living under the world’s longest ever internet shutdown in a democracy.

On August 5, the government of India scrapped the special status of Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. With that, they also put a clamp down on the internet and mobile services, effectively locking up 80 million Kashmiris. The worst ever human curfew.

Earlier days were still okay because us Kashmiris are used to frequent internet shutdowns. But with more and more time lapsing and no hope of the internet restoring, it started taking a heavy toll on me both mentally and physically. As a journalist and as an aspiring JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) applicant, the internet was like oxygen for me. Without the internet, all of this was an extinct dream.

In the earlier days, I frequently used to search YouTube for lectures until I realize the popup would show no network and a lack of internet connection. With no more ringing of the phone, I used to convince myself that the value of multimedia gadgets has diminished. Since you are now back to the Stone Age, just chill.

Months passed, I became impassionate and restless. My mind was functioning more like a swinging pendulum. Scanning the calm and desert world through the windowpanes of my room, counting roof ceilings, and fidgeting with old things was all I was able to do.

Life came to a standstill all at once. Same was the story of every Kashmiri.

Outside our homes, on the roads, markets, streets, everything associated with it reflected a deserted look. The frustration and depression was visible on every aspiring student. Us Kashmiris were rendered as lifeless clocks, hanging on walls with paralysed needles having no direction and destiny.

With no connectivity with the rest of the world, the possibility of calling someone outside for help and assistance was a concept null and void.

I still remember the first phone call with my friend when postpaid calling services were finally restored in month of October. We talked in length about the communication blackout and shared our experiences and difficulties of being in a communication blackout.

He told me about the girl who had to fly all the way from Kashmir to Delhi for just an email to be delivered. It cost her ₹20,000. Imagine how much this costs in normal circumstances. 1 KB, maybe one paisa!

That very story shattered me and I began to question about my being, identity and all that is associated with me. I decided to move out. I packed my bags and landed in Delhi, but this time with a different purpose.

Having been here for more than two months, I am now satisfied that I somehow be of help to needy students in some way and it gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction that I try my best to get their work done.

Coming to the internet, government authorities have time and again defended the communication (especially internet) shutdown as a defensive measure against militant groups. But, Kashmiris, and for that matter, every intellectual person will not buy this narrative. It is just that they did not want the outside world to know what they are doing in Kashmir.

It is just a tactic to curb the dissent on part of the people. They fear that their atrocities on Kashmir will be visible to the world and debunk what has been the narrative of the government and most of their news channels that report on Kashmir from decades.

Here, it also puts the onus and questions the credibility of world organisations, powerful countries, champions of human rights, and the international community. Despite their huge claims and say on fundamental rights, they have all failed in safeguarding the interests of Kashmiris.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Kundra95/Wikimedia Commons.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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