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Tablighi Jamaat and the conspiracy against Muslims by right, left and the Ambedkarites

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The recent incident of Tablighi Jamaat has brought in various debates among the left, right and Ambedkarite circles. The incident needs to be condemned no matter what your ideology is. When people were asked not to gather, when the world was going through a situation of crisis, such a religious gathering could have waited. This puts the lives of so many people at risk. Whataboutery like “The government had been irresponsible” or “what about Hindu events” cannot be considered as valid arguments to cover up the irresponsibility shown by the people in this gathering. Also, the way people are hiding away from getting quarantined, and misbehaving with the doctors shows how serious this can get.

All these been said, the irresponsibility of these people doesn’t justify Muslimphobia. We have to agree that this religious event has RELIGIOUS angle. Islam, just like any other religion, needs to be criticized for its irrationality and unscientific beliefs that it propagates, and which is responsible for creating this situation; but not the whole set of people who are Muslim by birth. This is because there’s high degree of heterogeneity on the ideologies that Muslim born people choose to follow- they can be religious, orthodox, liberal, atheists, agnostics etc. However, one of the biggest conspiracy played by the right, left and the Ambedkarites is the portrayal of Indian Muslims as homogeneous group of people. The common part of these three political stance is the belief that ALL muslims are believers of orthodox Islam.

The right wing portray Muslims as demonic set of people who believe that people from other religions are kaffirs. They argue that Muslims are only trying to increase their population and creating problems. They intentionally ignore how Hindus and Muslims in India were living together in pre-colonial India. Also they ignore the fact that a huge proportion of Muslims do not even read Namaz and do not have the education to read whatever is written in Quran.

The left wing portray them as a set of people who are extremely united, being minority. This is factually correct that Muslims had been discriminated and ghettoized in India, also they had been oppressed by the Hindutwa politics. But even in those ghettos there are differences, there are hierarchies where the religious leaders take up the top positions and the women take the last. There are orthodox women who are happy with hijab and polygamy and there are women who are believers but who want to go out and work. There are women want their men to not marry again. There are people who do not want to get married. There are people who keep their differences with Quran but do not have the guts to speak up because then they will be disowned by their community. The results might not be just disowning but much more, coming from both inside and outside the orthodox group. And what about the elite Muslims? They are not important! Taslima Nasreen had to join the Indian right wing to make her point. While the theories of Marx and Engels has spoken against organized religions and the way it propagates inequality, the Indian left wing believes Islam is the only way to mobilize people.

Lastly, the Ambekarites portray most of the present day Muslims are the oppressed dalits hence any criticism coming up against Islam from a non-dalit person is Islamophobia. Be it Markaz or Shajeel Imam, the Ambedkarites have always taken a stand with the orthodox Islamists. I believe identity politics is indeed necessary at times, but I do not think that a war against fascism can be won by countering one religious extremism with another because even your allies are heterogeneous set of people. Islam as a religion is propagating various irrational and unscientific beliefs as well as inequality that needs to be pointed out rather than doing whataboutery.

Regressive left and Ambedkarites never tried creating a space for criticizing Islam. Instead they mostly celebrated it when people from backward castes chose Islam. Numerous Facebook pages, Memes, conferences, academic circles etc are being used to address the notion of caste, patriarchy and irrational unscientific aspects of Hinduism, however, we hardly find any constructive criticism on Islam.

The right wing is trying to politicize this event at the moment by showing how Muslims are always creating trouble. I must say that our so called “progressive politics” and their conspiracies had been responsible for making this a successful narrative.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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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