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The Indian Government Hasn’t Really Managed To Win Over The Kashmiris

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Kashmir is one of the most intensely disputed territories of the world. What is dangerous and alarming is that it continues to be the subject of passionate conflict between India and Pakistan. In 2019, the Indian government scrapped the special status of Kashmir and this has deteriorated the relationship between these countries further.

On the one hand, India’s stand has always been that Kashmir is its integral part, but on the other hand, Pakistan sees itself as a real stakeholder in the Kashmir cause, and their arguments are backed by various resolutions passed by these two neighbouring countries.

Without taking into account at the past history of Kashmir, that unfolded after independence, India seems reluctant in facing the reality and deems the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja of Kashmir to be final and valid, while most historians, authors, think-tanks, intellectuals, and most importantly, Kashmiris themselves, see the Accession by the Maharaja as morally unethical and illegal on the grounds that Kashmiri people were not taken on board at that time. That is why, to this day, Kashmiris feel betrayed about it.

Renowned scholar and journalist Prem Shankar Jha in his book ‘The Origins Of Dispute: Kashmir 1947‘ discussed the nature of accession. He wrote about the critical times when the fate of Kashmir was decided in the context of Britain’s geopolitical strategies.

In the context of these doubts, we also have to look at the developments that occurred after the Instrument of Accession came into place, something that Kashmiris can never forget. Yes, I am talking about the promise of stalwart leader and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who while addressing Kashmiri’s famous Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk, Srinagar, guaranteed and assured Kashmiris about their right of self-determination.

Not only did he promise this, but he himself took it to the United Nations. Unfortunately, to this date, this promise has never been fulfilled and it remains the core problem of the present-day Kashmir situation and conflict. And, above all these dramatic turns, the fact is that Kashmiris have never accepted India, and have always seen India as occupiers.

Image Credit: Getty Images

India, on the other hand, portrays the arms resistance and conflict in Kashmir as a well planned out mechanism of Pakistan. I have observed how they blame Pakistan for state-sponsored terrorism that is supposedly radicalising Kashmiri youth against India. But, instead of looking at the root cause of the problem, India believes in proxies which, in my perspective, and to most intellectuals, is not the solution for the Kashmir situation. One needs to look at the core issue and nip the evil in the bud.

New Delhi has never used the soft approach to Kashmir, and I can say that they have always tried the muscular approach to win over Kashmiris. But, they refuse to accept the narrative that it has alienated Kashmiris further from India.

Kashmiris not only see India as occupying their state, but, their belief is justified by strong facts and arguments. One supreme argument among them is India’s heavy military presence in Kashmir. Around nine million troops, for 80 million people, make Kashmir the most militarised zone in the world.

It does not end here, the troops are not confined to borders or concentrated in some specific areas, but can be seen everywhere, be it ambushing roads, roaming on the streets with arms or in other public places. This means that they control Kashmir both internally and externally.

Who can forget the stories of brutality, like fake encounters, rapes, illegal detentions, tortures in concentration camps, forced labor, and more? These are all terms that have come to be associated with the Indian army, and it is this that affects Kashmiris’ psyche, affecting them mentally and placing them, physically too, in chains. That gives them a sense of being in an occupied state.

Kashmiris used as Human shield by Indian during an encounter

With all the ups and downs post-1947, Kashmiri people have lived through some bizarre situations. They have adjusted to these situations bravely. But, the vital question that remains for nations across the globe and for the people of India is, why has New Delhi never succeeded in winning the hearts of Kashmiris?

To be honest, despite knowing the sensitive nature of the Kashmir cause, I can say that they have never tried to win them over.

With Article 370 now having been abrogated, the government of India has now begun the process of what people have always feared. They have reportedly started changing names of important places in Kashmir which will further erode the sentiments of Kashmiris.

With these developments, one can easily sense the motive of BJP behind the abrogation; of course, it must have been their long-pending agenda! Although the BJP leaders insisted that the people’s identity, sentiments, and land will be safeguarded, practically, at this junction, it all seems like a mere façade.

Without going into a detailed history of Kashmir which I think everybody is familiar with, let us understand the perception and views of the Kashmiri people, and what they think of their relationship with India. After all, logic states that Kashmiris are the real stakeholders and their will, dignity, sentiments, and above all their right to life and liberty, deserve to be respected.

It is the responsibility of every secular nation and human rights organisations, and civil society groups across the globe to ensure respect for their rights and freedom of expression. And, more importantly, India and Pakistan should keep aside their ego and differences and solve this problem once and for all. As always in the history of mankind, it is the common person who has become cannon fodder and the victims of political high-handedness.

To conclude, Kashmir is not merely a beautiful piece of land. It speaks to the emotions, dignity, and respect of thousands of people who are yet to taste the real beauty of life.

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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.

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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.

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, 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.

Bidisha was selected in’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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