“India’s Right-Wing Juggernaut Should Be Treated As A Threat For The Subcontinent”

India has entered the new year on many negatives. Its economy is simmering and showing no signs of recovery. And protests are everywhere happening in the country and these are increasing with each passing day and first started by common people are now joined by students of various colleges and universities across the country.

The right-wing party BJP came again to power in May 2019 and within few months started its Hindutva agenda under Modi-Amit Shah duo without caring for the consequences. First by revoking Kashmir’s seminal autonomy and then by passing controversial laws thus degrading its minorities and creating an atmosphere of fear.

Kashmir is still under a communication lock down and cut off from the world even after almost six months. Kashmiris have been denied internet and pre-paid mobile services since August 5, 2019, when Article 370 was struck down by the Indian government.

Postpaid mobile services have recently restarted. It is pertinent to mention here that students in Kashmir appeared in examinations with going to school in the second half of the last year. They had to reach examinations on foot and crossing many blockades and concertina wires spread by forces. Jammu and Kashmir’s economy has suffered a massive blow.

Posters and placards at a protest against the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution and the proposed bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in Delhi, last year. (Photo by Amal KS/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

According to Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, businesses have suffered a loss close to ₹20000 crore and lakhs of young people have lost jobs due to the internet shutdown.

After assuming that it has won the people of India by scrapping Article 370 and by demonising Pakistan and Kashmiris in the eyes of masses, BJP, a right-wing political party passed a controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which gives citizenship to persons and refugees and immigrants belonging to several Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians except Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The first reaction came from Assam where people reminded the government about the consequences of this act and the Assam Accord. Several protestors were killed in police firing and internet and mobile services were shut down for several days to bring about the “normalcy.”

India is a country of over a hundred crore in population and protests are continuing against the unjust citizenship law. Students are on the streets and joined by common people. Over thirty people have been killed in police firing in Uttar Pradesh, yet there is no backing off from protestors. At some of the places, protestors, women, children, young and old are braving the cold nights and without eating anything to sit on roads during the whole night. Section 144 was promulgated in the whole of Uttar Pradesh to curb the information flow and suppress the people further.

On December 15, Delhi Police entered the library of one of the prestigious university of India, Jamia Millia Islamia University and beat up students, including women. Later in the evening, the police beat up students in hostels in another minority institution Aligarh Muslim University which attracted widespread condemnation locally and internationally.

Some renowned academicians writing letters expressing solidarity with the students who were protesting against the discriminatory law CAA. Internet and phone services were snapped in some Muslim majority areas of Delhi including Jamia Nagar, Okhla, and Shaheen Bagh for several days to prevent the people from assembling.

The Indian government has been criticised by many countries over the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and robbing of its autonomy and then caging its population through a mass crackdown and communication shut down for months and for the controversial acts passed by its parliament. The United Nations has criticised India many times.

The USA, Turkey, Malaysia and many countries have also criticised India for its anti-Muslim and Kashmir policies.

Recently, there was an incident at Jawaharlal Nehru University incident. where some goons with the help of ABVP, the BJP’s student wing, entered the campus and beat up students and professors with many sustaining serious injuries.

BJP-aligned Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath has warned protestors, mostly Muslims, of revenge and grave consequences of confiscating their property and other assets for the losses incurred during protests. This has also drawn criticism from various quarters, but to no avail, as police have started to confiscate the property of suspected Muslim protestors. And some BJP ministers have openly threatened those who will oppose the Modi and Yogi government.

Before the recent development of passing acts in parliament, India’s present government was changing the names of roads and other places to Hindu names (which is ongoing) and due to Muslims being lynched across several states and cities, the minorities, especially the Muslims are living under constant fear and threat.

India is slowly inching closer towards Nazi Germany in matters of treating its minorities and other marginalised communities with state-supported acts and legislations to demean and discourage them and eventually pave the way for a Hindu Rashtra in which minorities have to migrate to some other place or to live on the mercy of the majority.

It is high time in the midst of a do-or-die situation for the Indian progressive people, intellectuals, academicians and progressive political parties to stop this menace, hate-mongering and the right-wing juggernaut. Otherwise, we must be ready for the disaster which will engulf the entire subcontinent.

Featured image source: Dinesh G Gopalan/Facebook.
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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 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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