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Opinion: COVID-19, Right-Wing Myths And The ‘Other’

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Corona Virus has wreaked havoc all over the world. Thousand have been killed by this deadly virus. It is, after the 1918 Spanish flu, that such a large scale disruption has been caused to public life and that people have died at this scale, with no end in sight in the near future. Governments all over the world have been taking measures to tackle the pandemic. People have been asked to self-quarantine at their homes. Schools, colleges, universities, and all other offices have been shut down to prevent the spread of this virus and to prevent more deaths.

Indian doctors wait in an area set aside for possible COVID-19 patients at a free screening camp at a government run homeopathic hospital in New Delhi, India, Friday, March 13, 2020. The camp is part of the government’s surveillance for fever and other symptoms related to the coronavirus. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

India has also adopted many measures and enforced a lockdown for 21 days that is likely to be extended. The brunt of this lockdown has been borne mostly by labourers and daily wagers who live hand-to-mouth. But, what India’s right-wing and its many allies and the right-wing media have done wrong, even disgusting, is what any right-wing government does, by promoting myths, bigotry, and falsehoods for its larger design and above all vilify, stigmatise its Muslim minority, and launch a continuous campaign of Islamophobia.

First, a BJP party worker in West Bengal organised a cow urine consumption event, saying that it can prevent people from COVID-19 infection. Its other party workers, and some right-wing leaning academicians and even some public officials, have also endorsed that cow urine is like a medicine and can cure many diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart attacks. BJP affiliated chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath supported the idea that Yoga can cure COVID-19 and India’s high temperature and humidity can challenge its survival.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath

With the ‘Thali and Tali Bajao‘ (Clap and banging of plates) event in the initial days of COVID-19 cases in India, Indian Prime Minister Modi demonstrated that people still believe him and his talks and theatrics. I believe it has exposed how PM Modi can make people believe myths with his ‘oration’ and how, in my opinion, he and his party has turned Indians a brainwashed bunch.

And after almost two weeks of the lockdown, Modi again asked the country to switch off the lights of their homes and come out with burning candles and diyas on April 5. This, BJP and many of its affiliates, believe is a step away from darkness from to light, and to dispel the darkness of COVID-19, which has more mythical than any scientific ground. But these things are dear to Modi and right-wing. Right-wing populists thrive on these kinds of myths and unscientific propaganda.

Then came the question of Muslims. The Indian media, which was feeling fatigued, and maybe many of its rabble-rousers were left idle during this lockdown, invented a new reason for COVID-19, the ‘other’, the Muslim of India. The disease has been criminalised. Tablighi Jamaat at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz became the target. Fake videos and other stuff related to Islamophobia got circulated on social media within no time.


Some tried to name it “Corona Jihad” to vilify Muslims and Tabligh members. The media, within no time, started a campaign asking for the arrest of all Jamaat members and linked the group with many international terror outfits. On April 5, some people fired on a mosque in Gurugramm near Haryana. The accused confessed to the police that they fired on “Jamatis” for reportedly spreading COVID-19 and that they were instigated by WhatsApp messages. Muslims have been attacked and one Muslim man, Mehboob Ali, was beaten to death by a mob in Delhi’s Bawan for supposedly attending a Tableeghi event.

The right-wing is finding one excuse after another to further its agenda of myth, bigotry, and hatred for minorities. It’s pertinent to mention here only some Hindus and Sikhs came to the rescue of Muslims during the recently Delhi riots in which around 60 people were killed, mostly Muslims. The majority middle and lower-middle-class population, which forms the big chunk of BJP voters, have been seemingly swayed by right-wing jingoism and bigotry, and now many from this class have called to boycott the Muslim businesses.

And after almost two weeks of the lockdown, Modi again asked the country to switch off the lights of their homes and come out with burning candles and diyas on April 5.

And in the first week of April, almost eight months after the Indian government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy, the BJP government at the center, by taking the benefit of COVID-19 lockdown came up with a new domicile law. The law allowed citizens of mainland India to buy land and apply for government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir which previously was denied thanks to Article 370 (Note: this has since been amended). Many compared this law with an Israel-type annexation and land grabbing. High-speed internet remains suspended in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian press freedom is at its lowest. The Indian government has muzzled press freedom by shutting down channels, stopping advertisements to channels and newspapers after slight criticism. Many journalists and rationalists have been killed before for airing their views on several social matters and government policies.

Recently Modi convened a meeting of top news executives, allegedly urging them to publish only the ægood news’ about and of the government. Entry and reporting of foreign journalists have been curtailed. It’s pertinent to mention here Press in Jammu and Kashmir is still under censorship and news, views and articles regarding India’s clampdown and revocation of article 370 are not being published in local dailies and magazines.

The media clampdown started with the Kashmir story on August, 5 and many believe that they toed the government line when it came to the human rights abuses in Kashmir last year. According to many, a large section of the Indian media has become a lap dog, not a watchdog, referring to the right-wing Indian media which simply toes the line of the government and is full of Islamophobia and fake and jingoistic reporting.

It is becoming clear day by day that the ruling government is a master at is myth, bigotry, hatred and it is because of these tools it wants to retain the power. From Thali and Tali Bajao to Diya and Gau Mutra, BJP and PM Modi, a populist, is playing its cards well and where it is best at, to make its voters further dumb, and to keep them busy in unimportant things, to fill the society with more bigotry, hatred, and jingoism and to hide its failures on economic, employment and healthcare front. And so far it has succeeded in doing so, but at the cost of India’s already fading secularism and democracy.

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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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