Happy Birthday, Devangana Kalita

This letter is from friends, acquaintances and batch-mates, distressed by the arrest of Devangana Kalita (Miranda House alumna, 2007-10). She has been arrested 4 times in the middle of the pandemic within a span of ten days, re-arrested each time she gets bail on fresh FIRs. The charges levied against her are grievous and include the Arms Act, rioting, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, where it is nearly impossible to get bail. For interested readers, you can read more about the UAPA here.

Dear Devangana,

You turned 31 this month and your birthday passed like no other before. The newspapers have written a lot about what you are going through and many in the country now know your name. But they don’t know you as we do.

We have known you for years – as a dear friend, supportive roommate, generous colleague, fellow-debater, a brilliant student, and a tireless critic of injustice and inequality on the campus and beyond. Many of us remember you as a ball of energy, swirling in your skirts, with kajal-smeared eyes, and your peals of laughter bouncing off the red brick walls of our hostel.

“You saw the world for all the better it could be.”

Although like a typical hosteler, you made it to your lectures only just in time, you always shone academically – all your teachers have known you as a promising young scholar.  As a student of English literature and then History, you had a keen eye for workings of power in fiction as well as life.  Always curious, you were – and remain – consistently open to other points of view, and engaged with others to review, revise and even reconsider your opinions. In your interim bail order from the magistrate in one of the cases read, you,“[t]he accused, have strong roots in society and are well-educated.

For you, transporting your ideas beyond the walls of classrooms and libraries was important.

You were fiercely active in the women’s development cell and spoke out on how colleges and hostels should be enabling spaces and nurture free-thinking, independent young women. We remember how you participated in the university-wide campaign for all institutions to have a functional gender cell, internal complaints committee and implement the Vishakha Guidelines. Beginning with demands for more streetlights on Delhi University streets and the city, more public transport, active helpline numbers, safer PGs and hostels for women students – you saw the world for all the better it could be.

Those of us who were in college with you remember your campaign for the post of the college Student Union Vice- President in 2008-09. Many of us volunteered day and night for something we truly believed in – YOU. Student activism is often understood as antithetical to studies and equated with hooliganism. You broke that stereotype by proving to be an honest, able, approachable and accountable representative time and again.

We know that in your quest to understand and improve the world around you – studying it and participating in activism went hand in hand. In a world where one’s success is only measured in money and merit, you gave up many financially rewarding opportunities that came your way, to be a full-time women’s rights activist and fight for social justice and equality.

This is one of Devangana's artworks - colorful and vibrant like her.
This is some of the artwork (circa 2012) by Devangana. It is colourful and vibrant like she is.

In the hostel, you painted for your own pleasure, giving colour and shape to all your feminist dreams. For anyone who remembers, your paintings that decorated the hostel walls were large swirls of bright colours that drew us all in. We cannot imagine where you are now–a place where freedom itself fails. Knowing you though, the walls around you must be splashed with the same bright colours of your mind.

Happy Birthday, Devangana. We hope this letter brings some joy to you and reminds you of how we, your friends, really see you.  The fact remains that if they put all the light in the world inside a box, it is the outside that is left in the dark. Know that if we could make a birthday wish on your behalf, it would be that more of us could be more like you.

Love,

Your friends and batch-mates.

Note: As concerned friends and citizens of the country, we hope that she, and others arrested on similar grounds, in the matter have a just and fair investigation. Also, that adequate measures have been taken to ensure everyone’s safety while in custody in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below