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Opinion: CAA Is One More Nail In The Coffin Of A Democratic, Secular India

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The Citizenship Act of 1955 provided for the acquisition and the determination of Indian citizenship. In 2016, the Citizenship Amendment Bill proposed in the Lok Sabha modified the 1955 Act, to make illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains Parsi, and Christians qualify for citizenship, excluding the people from the Muslim community.

CAA is a legislation passed by the Parliament of India, via the Home Ministry, under Mr Amit Shah.

It is important to understand the problems with the NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) together. The reason for  NRC is to determine who is an Indian and who is not. In Assam, the same thing was done but it was a failed experiment.

Foreseeable Problems With A Nationwide NRC

The Assam experiment has shown that it’s extremely difficult to prove citizenship because not all people have access to the necessary documents. The documents might have been misplaced, the names might have been mispronounced or misspelt, leaving the people to suffer.

Approximately, 1. 9 million people have been declared illegal immigrants, in Assam; and it has been proposed that they should be sent to detention camps. Hence, one can imagine the magnitude of the problem. We are a population of 1.25 billion, who are now being told to produce documents.

In a country where an imminent number of people are illiterate, people don’t have these documents. Some people are constantly moving, so where are they going to produce those documents from? One can’t come up with these papers immediately, and this is where the problem lies.

I feel that the Citizenship Act has been amended keeping the above in mind, which is part of the agenda of the Hindu right-wing forces in the country. Citizenship is a universal category; it has never had any caste or religion or any other markers attached to it.

For the first time, we have an articulation of religion with citizenship and thus, it is important to keep this in mind, because the non-Muslims have been exempted. Citizenship is not being offered to Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. This is an exclusionary policy and there will be great consequences.

What Does The Government Want To Achieve With CAA?

The government identified 19 lakh people without documents. Out of these, it was found that 13 lakhs were Hindus. In my opinion, the government grew alarmed, as it did not want to expel Hindus, and hence, it decided to bring in the CAA first.

The CAA clearly states that the Hindus, Christians, and Parsis without the required documents to prove their Indian identity and citizenship, will be permitted to stay (if they entered the country before 2014). But, Muslims will not be allowed.

In my opinion, it seems that the main aim of the BJP, which is also called the Jana Sangh, includes the protection of India’s Hindu cultural identity, which promotes Hindutva. It is very natural to believe that if citizenship is being granted based on the religion of a person, then it means that a Hindu Rashtra will be built.

We talk about democracy, secularity, and freedom of religion but nothing is being followed. Muslims are allegedly being threatened, harassed and humiliated for the tiniest errors in their identity documents because of which they might be thrown into the detention camps. And those belonging to other faiths, whose documents also contain errors, will be able to seek refuge under the Citizenship Act.

Stand Up Against The Act, Now!

There were anti-CAA protests which were organised in many cities. Some were held together with other organisations, some with individuals.

The seeds of hatred have been sown at a rate that every Muslim will be expelled from the country. This hatred seems to be never-ending. The Muslims are being targeted today, I believe the next will be Dalits and Sikhs. The way the Ahmadi people are facing discrimination in Pakistan is horrible.

There is a struggle to define who is a Muslim and who is not; tomorrow there might be a struggle over who is a real Hindu, whether Dalits are real Hindus or who is a Brahmin and who is not.

There were protests which were organised in many cities. Some were held together with other organisations, some with individuals. There were protests which took place all over India in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Kolkata, etc.

There have been detention camps made in different states and hence, it is crystal clear to me, that we are heading towards a genocide. This is precisely how the holocaust happened, with the majority of people in Germany unaware and uncaring.

The only people who can save this country are the citizens now, irrespective of whatever their religion is. The implementation of the NRC, of which there are no guidelines, will have no transparency. It will be completely discretionary and nobody really knows how this really going to be done.

Assam was a failed experiment and that is clear given all of these facts. I believe that this law is one more nail in the coffin of a democratic, secular India. The violence that protests have been met with in different states proves that it is right to stand up against this act.

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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, 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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