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This Republic Day, Let Population Data Tell You Where The Hindu Rashtra Truly Stands

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Growing up, I remember being very excited for Republic Day each year. While I always struggled with getting up early, but that one particular day I woke up before the alarm rang. The feeling of pride while watching the parade has always been indescribable for me, and no other festival or holiday made me feel the same happiness.

Approximately 20 years later, now, I find that the same holiday, my beloved Republic Day has ceased to excite me, and all the celebrations just seem too vain for me to participate in. I have spent the last couple of years trying to understand what brought about this change and while I may always continue to find new reasons, one thing that struck me was that this is not the country that I grew up believing in and loving. Since the past few years, all the paraphernalia of the parade seemed futile compared to the lakhs of people struggling to survive each day.

Today, the reasons for this lack of emotion are vastly different and diverse. Despite having a strong love for my country, I don’t feel proud of it anymore. Over the past few years, this nation has disrespected itself and each life that was sacrificed for its freedom, discredited its own history and constitution, and reduced itself to just another state heavily intertwined in its communal politics.

A tableau is featured during the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

One significant point that has been validated with a constant observation of the people around me – largely constituted by Hindus, is that communal politics is not just about what the current government believes in and practices, but also what a large section of the population has systemically been led to believe: that “their religion (Hindu dharma) is in danger.”

For building a perspective on equality, justice and freedom, it may not be ideal to talk about how Hinduism has been misinterpreted and misused but it is difficult to deny that this discussion is important.

Like many of us, I have grown up with stories of morality, kindness and humanity and the elders have often talked about similar values as our innate ‘Indianness.’ Yet, I now find the same people choosing to subscribe to an opposite viewpoint.

Even a few conversations with them are enough to bring to light the point that this conscious choice is heavily impacted with decades of nurtured belief that their religion is in danger. This fear is so strong that they are keen to find reasons to legitimise it and sadly, are often successful.

The most common argument that I have heard is, “Look around the area we live in, there are more Muslims than Hindus so how can you say that we are not in danger?”  As myriad as the counter arguments can be, I will focus on one – the aspect of population.

As we await the Census 2021 data, let us take a close look at the data for the two preceding periods: 1991-2001 and 2001-2011. The respective percentage figures for the two periods shows a decline in the Hindu population from 80.5% to 79.8% and an increase in the Muslim population from 13.4% to 14.2%.

While these figures are used to aid the argument that the trend will lead to a point where Muslims will be in majority, what is generally ignored is the dip in the growth rates of both the populations. The growth percentage for Muslim population for the 1991-2001 decade was 29.3% (the figure was revised after accounting for the fact that 1991 census could not take place in Jammu and Kashmir) and 24.6 % for 2001-2011 decade, showing a decline of 4.7 percentage points.

Over the same periods, the growth rate of Hindu population declined from 20.3% (1991-2001) to 17.7% (2001-2011) – a difference of 2.6 percentage points.

Referring to a news report for the calculations, if we consider a scenario with the same trend, by 2061, the Muslim population is expected to stand at 16.89% and the Hindu population at 81.06%. Another case pointed here, with a rise in growth rate of the Hindu population but the same (or worse) decline in the Muslim population will also lead to a majority Hindu population in the country.

A study of a third scenario, reversing the trends from the second case, reveals that it carries a nil probability of realisation, as for this the Muslim population would need to have a substantial increase in their growth rates whereas the highest exponential growth rates do not generally exceed 2%.

Combining these statistics with the fact that growth rates decline with improvement in literacy and socio-economic factors, even if at a slow pace, the idea that Hindu population is in danger because of the rise in the Muslim population is far-fetched. The real dangers to the Hindu religion and more importantly, the country as a whole, have their origins inherent in a strategic manipulation of history and facts, and building a desire for a supposed return to glory with a Hindu Rashtra.

As the country celebrated its 71st Republic Day, I tried to finally articulate a part of what I felt about this day that was once special to me. On one hand there is a fear for the country I grew up loving and the values it once represented, while on the other the active voices of dissent rising as the beacon of hope, the true manifestation of “We, the people of India” as enshrined in the Preamble.

But to really bring about a revolution, we need more. We need the populations living in shrouded beliefs and false narratives to break through, engage in in-depth study of history, society and politics and bring back the democratic spirit of India – our ‘Indianness.’

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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