This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhay Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Hollowness Of The “Mighty” Indian State: Words, Poetry, And Speeches Are Crimes?

The slapping of terror charges for saying “comrade” and writing ‘Lal Salam’ lays bare the State’s vulnerability to growing protests.

Akhil Gogoi
Akhil Gogoi at a protest rally.||Credits: Scroll

Last week the media brought us yet another piece of shocking news. Bittu Sonowal—a supporter of the peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi in Assam—has been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In the charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency, Sonowal has been accused of addressing his colleague as “comrade” and writing “Lal Salam” on his Facebook page.

The slapping of the UAPA and the colonial sedition case has become the order of the day. If a person is charged with the UAPA, they find it extremely difficult to get bail. Moreover, the burden of proving innocence lies on the accused themself. This is simply a gross violation of the principle of criminal jurisprudence that presumes an accused person innocent till they are convicted.

The sedition charge (124A)—which was framed and used against the freedom fighters by the British Indian Government—is being invoked against the dissenters. Raising slogans, writing a post on social media, and writing an article in a newspaper have become grounds for the sedition charges. This is yet another indication of intolerance of the State to hear any voice of opposition.

Mark the contradiction here. While Britain, the framer of the sedition charge, has itself scrapped the sedition cases from its penal code, the successor government led by the colonized has no hesitation invoking it against the people. This points to the vulnerability of the postcolonial State.

In other words, it exposes the State’s fragility. Perhaps, the edifice of the State is shaken more today than yesterday. Its authoritarianism, therefore, flows from this sense of insecurity and vulnerability. They, in turn, lead the State to come down upon anyone who disagrees with the State, i.e. intellectuals, activists, protestors, etc.

Note that Bittu Sonowal and two other supporters of Gogoi were arrested earlier this year and framed under the various charges of UAPA, Gogoi has been under detention since December 16 in connection with a National Investigation Agency case. The peasant leader of Assam has been booked under Sections 120B, 253A, 153B of the IPC and Sections 18 and 39 of UAPA.

Their arrests are widely seen as an act of victimization. They are being harassed because they have been at the forefront of the protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) when Assam rose to oppose the imposition of the CAA, seen as an exclusionary act that bars the Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to become Indian citizens.

In the recent past, the nature of the State has become more undemocratic and authoritarian. It has no hesitation in arresting and invoking the terror charges on university students. Its cruel face gets unmasked when it jails a young pregnant woman as she spoke against a particular law and was involved in a peaceful protest at Jamia Millia Islamia.

In addition to that, the young bright minds from the minority Muslim community are being framed in terror charges, and some of them have been jailed. Their only “crime” is that they decided to come out of their classrooms to protect India’s secular values. Even a young scholar from a minority community from Manipur has been framed in sedition charges for writing an opinion piece in a local newspaper, highlighting the displacement of the local Muslims.

Modi And Amit Shah; Anti-CAA protests
With the rising tide of protests, the State feels more insecure today.

University professors, journalists, intellectuals, social activists—whose works are widely read, referred, and admired—are being portrayed as “threats” to the state. If giving a speech and reciting poetry can invite the State’s wrath, imagine the hollowness of the “mighty” State!

See the irony. While the world is fighting against the coronavirus, the Indian ruling classes are busy with framing, beating, arresting, and jailing the dissenters. While the other countries are releasing the prisoners amid the growing pandemic, the Indian State is preoccupied with erasing out any mark of protests. This shows nothing but the crumbling castle of the establishment. Threatened by the rising power of the people, the State can only survive by turning more draconian.

But someone may argue that the State looks more powerful under the current regime than ever? The argument may be put forward that the second term of the Hindutva government has got more seats than it had in the previous term. Undoubtedly, the seats have increased, but so have miseries and ensuing protests.

Who will deny that the Modi Government, despite enjoying dominance in electoral politics, has seen far stronger protests and resistance than seen in the earlier times? From the abolition of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir to the imposition of the CAA, the batons and bullets of the police and the army have been met with slogans, demonstrations, and roadblocks.

With the rising tide of protests, the State feels more insecure today. First, they imposed curfews in the Kashmir valley, and the internet services and other means of communication were withdrawn. It was followed by the heavy deployment of the police and army personnel to fill the space on roads, alleys, and mohallas. The curfew-like situation and suspension of rights continue not for days, weeks, and months, but has become a permanent and normal state of affairs.

In sum, the largest democracy of the world has also become notorious for depriving people of the internet and phones for the longest period. The people could not be allowed to talk with their relatives, irrespective of their right to freedom of speech and being given constitutional protection.

This is the state of the largest democracy in the world. The way the terror charges are indiscriminately thrown at the dissenters and they are demonized as anti-national, it uncovers the deep-seated crisis of the Indian State. The task of the people’s movements is to further deepen it.

You must be to comment.

More from Abhay Kumar

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Priyank Sharma

By Sara Nomani

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, 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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below