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Opinion: People Who Criticise Student Protests While Supporting Govt Are Hypocrites

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December 18 and 19 have proven to be instrumental dates for the world’s oldest democracy and the largest democracy (NOT youngest, that’s Tunisia)- Donald Trump impeached by the House of Representatives in the United States, and a huge crackdown on protesters in the Indian national capital, New Delhi.

In the former, we see democracy being implemented, and the latter case shows the misuse of the Draconian tools at the disposal of the “democratically elected leadership”. Yes, Trump will not lose his seat, but it is indeed a huge hit on his massive ego, and could potentially be a deciding factor going into 2020, the presidential election year.

Many who celebrated Trump’s impeachment here in India, saying “Aah, he had it coming, the way he was making bizarre statements, his ugly capitalist bent and his policy towards immigrants” while also supporting the present BJP government, I urge you to introspect, at least once, (that’s the least you could do if you don’t want to read up and get informed).

If Trump is bad for you because you cannot get a green card and are all in for the new citizenship norms that the Indian government is trying to set into force, I’m sorry but you’re no better. At least the USA has the First Amendment and people can freely assemble and protest.

In December, we saw a massive crackdown on the protesters against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the police brutality on students. More than 16 metro stations across the city were shut, the network providers were ordered to shut their services in “sensitive areas”, and hundreds of protesters were detained (even before the protest march could actually commence in many areas), citing “security issues”.

Police crackdown on protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Protesting peacefully is a constitutional right that the citizens of India enjoy and exercise to voice their dissent against the government. Dissent is what keeps democracy from turning into an authoritarian rule, and such a crackdown on dissent only shows how we’re nearly there.

Student protests have proven to be a potent force in bringing about a change by developing, as Douglas Kirby points out, a counterculture to the existing political culture of the country.

Students all across the world have risen against the unjust rule, which has been seen in India in the past as well. Take the case of the student revolution brought by the AASU in Assam, or the more recent Hok Kolorob movement in Jadavpur University.

You know you reek of hypocrisy, when on the one hand, you say that the youth is our future, we should listen to their voices, and on the other hand, you question the same students by saying “You are students, your job is to study, why are you protesting?”.

Maybe the students wouldn’t have to protest if you did your job of keeping the sanctity of the Constitution intact, and not attacking its very essence. Before undermining student protests, ask yourself why Universities all around the world are standing in solidarity with Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, against the unconstitutional CAA, and against the police brutality by the state.

Also ask yourself, that if these protests do not offer any “real challenge”, then why did the State resort to using tear gas and beating up students in Jamia and AMU, even against the students who weren’t protesting, and were sitting in the library. But maybe this would also have other facets involved.

At the centre of all this is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC). Looking at the Act disjoint of the NRC would be ignorant. While the Home Minister tries to convince the public that CAA shouldn’t be seen with the NRC, he has himself gone ahead and made certain statements which contradict this notion of seeing CAA and NRC as separate.

Time and again, Amit Shah has said that non-Muslims need not fear, the government will ensure their citizenship. Shah, in a speech in West Bengal, made clear his intention- First, the Citizenship Amendment Bill will be passed to give Citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikh and Jain refugees, and then implement the NRC to remove all the “infiltrators”, who were akin to “termites” in the country.

No points for guessing which community is clearly being targeted here. The CAA 2019 not only goes against the democratic values and the Constitution of the country but is as big a problem in Assam. The Assam Accords were promises made to the Assamese in order to protect their ethnic identity. The CAA goes against the Accords, and with the NRC already implemented in Assam, the Assamese could become an ethnic minority within their own state. Assam remembers the 1970s and 80s, and they are not a force that can be stopped just by undemocratic measures like shutting the internet, unlawful arrests and massive brutality against citizens.

For the uninitiated and to those who still support Narendra Modi’s government at the centre, and thus come out against the student protests, it is important to note that leaders of the BJP themselves were voracious student leaders. The ABVP itself led protests, led by student leaders such as Arun Jaitley, during Indira Gandhi’s government in 1974.

BJP, emerging as the “chosen one” in 2014, has become the very thing it swore to destroy (no, this is NOT just a Star Wars reference). Even the Prime Minister’s website states his involvement in student protests (Ask Vivek Oberoi, he’ll confirm this). So, why such a crackdown on the student protests?

Student protests have indeed led to a growing counterculture, which is seen as a challenge to power by an insecure leadership. The crackdown on student protests will only lead to more students rising up, as we’ve seen, and will not be just limited to students. People around the whole country have taken to streets to save democracy. The political leadership now needs to understand that acting undemocratically against a united group of people will not help. They need to now realise the duty that the people of India have entrusted them with – to keep the democracy and Constitution safe and intact.

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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.”

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.

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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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