Democracy Has Existed For 2500 Years But How Long Will It Survive In India?

All of us are familiar with the most favourable form of government called ‘democracy’, which prevails in most countries in modern times. Since its inception in ancient Greece, several hundreds of years ago, it has continued to exist in this modern era popularly, although a lot has changed in its modern variation.

Since its inception in ancient Greece hundreds of years ago, democracy has continued to exist in this modern era popularly.

Moreover, ‘democracy’ is the only political idea whose completion of 2500 years was popularly celebrated all over the world in 1992.

The emergence of modern democracy can again be traced to the West, in the aftermath of the Civil War in Britain, in the seventeenth century.

With the industrial revolutions and political revolutions in the eighteenth century, more countries such as France and America succeeded in attaining this popular form of government.

Well, in the aftermath of World War I, in order to bring peace and prevent war further, world leaders started promoting the ideals of democracy across the globe.

Unfortunately, with the rise of Fascism and Nazism, a devastating war broke out again in Europe in 1939, later spreading in almost all major countries of the world.

India, then a British colony also had to participate in the great war. However, finally, it attained independence from the British, and eventually, emerged as a sovereign, democratic, and republic nation.

As such, the period of decolonisation saw many newly independent nations in Asia and Africa emerging democratic.

Democracy After 1947: India

With India’s independence, our leaders of the freedom struggle envisaged an idea of inclusive India – a country for all, irrespective of faith, caste, creed, class, etc. and wrote a constitution, incorporating the best ideals of the constitutions of over 30 countries.

Many had then opined that this democracy wouldn’t survive, keeping in mind the diverse populace in the country. But, today, even after seventy years, we, the 133 crore Indians, are proud to boast ourselves as the largest democracy of the world.

India has always stood united, setting a perfect synonym for ‘unity-in-diversity’. For this, it’s never enough to recall that India, where we are proud to live in, is because of the contributions and sacrifices of scores of men and women of a different faith, sects, caste, creed, etc. who all named their lives for the country.

Moreover, independent India, under the first Prime-ministership of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, rightly paved India towards a successful democracy in its initial decades. Nehru’s domestic and foreign policies, both, including the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) placed India in a new independent order.

Perhaps, these were what sustained India’s democracy in its very years, unlike in other countries, such as Pakistan or Sri Lanka, wherein in a very short span of time, democracy saw its worst resulted by military coups and alike.

History Of India’s Crumbling Democratic Crises

However, India’s democracy has also undergone crucial phases in the past decades. For instance – during Indira Gandhi’s regime, clashes between the government and the judiciary saw great heights.

The emergency years marked various unfavourable instances and unfortunate sufferings across the country.

But, eventually, judicial interventions, time and again, have strengthened the democratic and constitutional fabric of the nation. Notwithstanding, the emergency years marked various unfavourable instances and unfortunate sufferings across the country, which had then, certainly undermined the democratic values and left scars in the political history of India.

As it is known, a major drawback that appears in a democratic government is when a single majority party comes in power and forms the government. They get the power to bring any law or regulation, which many a time, may not be favourable to its own people.

For instance – among many of the laws and amendments brought by Indira Gandhi’s legislature, the exercise of power arbitrarily sought in aiming certain political interests. Fortunately, the judiciary successfully overruled many of those legislations.

Subsequently, in the later period of post-cold war and unipolar world order, democracies saw binding with each other: be it in economic or political aspects, through international organisations creating a new order in the world democracy.

Under the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime, formed by the thumping majority, we are witnessing an unfavourable scenario in India’s polity.

It seems, as believed by the liberal political philosophers, that the nations which are democratic are more likely to progress and flourish in the global village.

But, yet again, at the domestic front, under the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime, formed by the thumping majority, we are witnessing an unfavourable scenario in India’s polity.

All of this is happening at a time when the economy is undergoing a regressive slowdown, legislations such as a religion-based Citizenship (Amendment) Act and nationwide NRC create a hue and cry amongst the common masses.

For the first time, the religious parameters of the legislation have left questions on the table of the apex court to test its constitutionality. And as far as the state of Assam is concerned, the CAA violating the historic Assam Accord has to meet serious judicial intervention.

Also, under Modi’s regime, there has been a rise in the political ideology of Hindutva, across the nation. It remains to be seen how long India’s democracy and constitutional ideals will sustain.

Well, as of now, it is high time the other pillars of the democracy – judiciary and the press – serve their independent and unbiased positions.

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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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