My Idea Of India: Where Humanity Presides Over Everything Else

Writing for essay competitions, speaking for elocution, dancing on nationalistic fervour-filled songs on the eve of Republic Day celebrations was part and parcel of growing up. It was an exciting moment then, am sure it is an exciting moment for the kids growing up today.

It is seventy years now, our beautiful country was always about unity in diversity or “anekta mein ekta.” A red-letter day in Indian history as the Constitution came into force making India into a fully independent republic.

While I was growing up, my parents were quite unhappy with the fact that we were not asked by the school authorities to learn the Preamble by heart. It was a matter of pride from the people of my parents’ generation to recite the Preamble whenever asked to.

Today, I see people and student leaders reciting the Preamble while having it printed on an A4 size paper and reading out loud to a bunch of protestors in India or abroad. While people of my generation have access to much better educational facilities, then how come reciting the Preamble without Googling is such a difficult task?

One of many protests across the country against the implementation of the CAA.

I hail from Assam and having grown up in a fairly cosmopolitan environment, I say this with conviction that I am proud to have more non-Assamese friends than my fellow Assamese friends. It makes things beautiful as to how much of a heterogeneous society one can belong to. It also brings up the topics of discrimination and why it is needed to be addressed irrespective of caste, language, race or religion. Above all, it teaches empathy and acceptance.

The ritual of every R-Day would be to get up and switch on Doordarshan for the live telecast of the celebrations from Rajpath. Starting from the Amar Jyoti Jawan, receiving the chief guest for the event, seeing the parades, the passing of the tableaux of different states and having a discussion as to how previous year’s tableaux looked better than the current year, the bike show and the air show all got me glued to the TV screen.

It was always a dream to watch it live in Delhi. I did land an opportunity to watch the 2018 Republic Day celebrations at India Gate from close quarters, despite reaching a few minutes late to almost not getting allowed to go inside because of the huge crowd that was getting impossible to accommodate. It was the year when India did not have just one guest but ten guests owing to the developments in the India-ASEAN relations.

For all those who have not witnessed this live from the capital, trust me it is an exhilarating experience and will make you proud as an Indian, no matter which far off corner of the country you come from!

Over the past few years, India’s image has been declining on various indicators, be it on the parameters to judge freedom of speech and expression, HDI, safety, unemployment, democracy, etc. This is happening despite the fact that our country is aiming high to becoming a superpower. One becomes a superpower only if a country believes and respects its human resources!

People are now out on the streets for all the right reasons, i.e. for defending the democratic and constitutional values but are equally getting polarised with varied opinions. Protests are happening in almost every state now since the CAA, despite internet and communication blockades. I was a victim of internet ban for ten days straight when the protests were at its peak when it was still CAB and not CAA.

Students who are protesting are getting bashed up mercilessly for speaking up their minds, for resisting fee hikes. This not only kills the spirit of the people but it kills the very soul of the nation. But these students are adamant to face draconian regimes with the very hope that peace will prevail, and that the poorest of the poor have access to education, jobs and health care facilities.

Women who have been always within four corners, who have been victims of patriarchy all these years are today out in the biting cold, sitting for more than forty days straight, feeding their babies while protesting and wearing the bindi and the hijab to protect their idea of India. Will you come across such diversity ever in any other country?

Whereas in the far-flung areas of the northeast, women have come out in their traditional attire raising slogans in their mother tongue; fearless and leading it from the front despite being tagged “half-naked” by some newspapers who want to shove down their linguistic chauvinism upon indigenous tribes. Women from the NE are not getting covered as much as the women from the capital.

As the world is changing, as our societies are changing and wishes to become less rigid, my idea of India should also be able to speak up for the marginalised communities who are economically and socially backwards and whose numbers are still very large even today after more than 70 years of standing tall and independent.

It should be able to speak up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community who must greater access to every dream they want to pursue, access to feel included, access to speak up their minds against oppression. My idea of India should be able to make citizens more aware of climate change and address it from their home fronts as it demands behavioural change.

My idea of India should be able to wake up people from their slumber and resist people like President Jair Bolsonaro who has a major role to play in the Amazon fires and making absolutely racist remarks on the indigenous tribes of Brazil, from being invited on R-Day celebrations in the future!

As we step into the 71st year, let us pledge to now remember the Preamble of the Constitution to uphold humanitarian values and to accommodate the varied ideas of “my idea of India.”

Jai Hind!

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Marko Mikkonen/Flickr.
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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.

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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
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