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“Muslims Were Never Made So Conscious Of Their Minority Status Before 2014”

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My Faith: A Precursor Of Questionable Citizenship

DISCLAIMER:  As a follower of Islam, (knowing the fact that I am Indian does not bother many fellow Indians), I, in my conscious state, am fully aware of the fact that I have to prove my Indianness repeatedly, throughout the article; lest I am misinterpreted for speaking candidly or perhaps, get too carried away with disguised pain of Islamophobia, and forget to express love for my country. Kindly forgive me…

The recent developments around National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that have gripped the nation, do not solely motivate me to write about what it is to be like a Muslim.

After all, the very hidden spirit of the bills; ‘Islamophobia’ has existed ever since the 9/11 attacks in the US. And probably, that marked the genesis of custom for all Muslims to show their love for their country, out of duty, rather than with genuineness, whichever country they belonged to. Obviously, this does not apply to countries where Islam is the official religion. However, this is compensated by issues of existential crisis, which, I believe, are worse than death.

There are many reasons to write and first and foremost is, that I am an Indian and… a Muslim.

Our love for the same land and love for each other, irrespective of the differences, made everything beautiful. *Representational Image*

Well, the toughest part for most of our non-Muslim friends, and people around us, has been figuring out the pronunciation of our names! After all, Persian and Arabic languages have peculiar syllables and pronunciations, which makes it a daunting experience for some. But believe me, deep down, we loved some of the strangest renditions of our names!

You guys waiting impatiently for our lip-smacking delicacies on Eid always gave us a sense of inclusiveness, and never did we feel any different, when we burst Diwali crackers together and lighted the Diyas together!

And the list goes on…

Though our numbers are minuscule in the mainstream; be it workplaces, colleges and universities, cinemas or theatres, but, never once did you let us feel different just because of our faith. To be frank, it never felt any different. Our love for the same land and love for each other, irrespective of the differences, made everything beautiful.

Any terrorist attack by the ISIS perturbed us deeply. After all, we condemn killings against humanity, and Islam prohibits killing any human being in the name of religion, whatever be his/her faith and instructs us to be kind and gentle to everyone.

With time, Islamophobia rose in the mainstream foreign media, be it US, UK, France, Australia, China and many more. But you all knew that ISIS was a false ambassador of Islam and no religion, whatsoever, supports violence and murder. Though not all of you felt this, and we understand that. We are sorry we didn’t condemn it publicly every time they did it. But our condemnations are always there at a personal level.

I know the taqiyahs, burqas and hijabs sometimes scared you or made you see us with suspicion. All thanks to cliched Bollywood films, which always stereotyped us as traitors and terrorists. But you also know that isn’t true, and, that we are not Pakistanis.

As a young Indian, I always take pride in being one, because unlike other countries, which treated most Muslims with hate and misunderstood their ideologies, India never resorted to Islamophobia or accused us of things we never committed.

This is what makes India beautifully different. Everyone was equal before law, and perpetrators were punished not on the basis of faith, but by their level of wrongdoing. People never judged on the basis of eating habits and respected each other for their practices, opinions and beliefs. Though this sometimes triggered unrest and fights, all this never took an ugly turn in the form of lynchings, after all, there can’t be any Utopian society!

The blood and sweat of our forefathers gave us this very nation, India. The very idea of India was based on the idea of ‘unity in diversity’ which Gandhiji and other leaders envisioned. The very formation of Pakistan was and has been a mirror of the challenge that Jinnah put forth, and that was if Muslims could live peacefully in India, with their existence never threatened. And we emerged victorious, though with a set of ups and downs. The Constitution of India lives by a very fragile thread of secularism and the Preamble as follows.

 

Image result for preamble of india

However, recent developments have only made things worse for us, as Muslims. Our existence questioned and ignored at the same time, we were never made so conscious about our religion or our status as a minority, before 2014. We have been made to question things, which don’t make sense in the present scenario; when on the other hand, we have more pressing issues to look into.

Let’s Not Become Hypnotised With Fascist Ideologies

We must identify this as an attempt to attack the sanctity of the Constitution and deviation from issues, whose resolution will uplift the country in the real sense. The real motive of the government has to be identified and stopped before matters go out of hand and all of us become hypnotised with fascist ideologies. We have seen even bloodshed in the name of religion 72 years back, that divided landmasses efficiently, and all of us have come to terms to it.

We, as Muslims, expect you all to support us, and all the students of various colleges, who are on their journey of bringing down the unconstitutional, draconian Act, which threatens the very existence of our identity.

India is ours as much as yours. Our forefathers drained their blood and fought selflessly for a free India, irrespective of caste, creed and religion; that is now going out of our hands. The spirit of secularism that beautifies our country and is the envy of many, is now rusting before our very eyes and needs to be saved before it crumbles. Let us not fall trap to the ideology of one religion-one nation and preserve the very edifice of what India rests on – Diversity!

Let’s not divide ourselves as Muslims and Hindus but, as good and bad persons; the very principle of humanity.

Jai Hind!

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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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