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Opinion: Why Is The Internet Validating The Fragile Egos Of Men Like Shubham Mishra?

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One of the pleas, seeking independent enquiries in Dubey’s murder reads “dismantle the system of criminal justice.” I have been feeling the same for quite sometime now. With every netizen with an active internet pack deciding how actions need to be reprimanded, how justice should be effectively delivered to all parties, do we really need a strenuous system of courts deciding the breakdown of complicated laws?

Shubham Mishra (age unknown, but a wise old man to some) decided the most befitting response to a comedian’s take on Shivaji’s statue. Wait, it wasn’t even that. It was her research process of knowing more about the said immortalisation of Shivaji that she dared to make fun of. Our protagonist, true to his questionable upbringing, declared how rape is the only suitable punishment for such a crime.

Left: Agrima; Right: Shubham Mishra (Source: DNA)

The video in question is a year old, but it generated traction and limelight two days ago. As a direct impact of #BadassShubham’s video, some local goons decided to wreck (and record the said destruction) Habitat Comedy Club, where the comedy act was recorded. In the eyes of our dear fanatic fiends, this is only partial justice delivered since “ladies log ko lekar aao.” Personally, even while I shiver and write this piece, I am considering if I should mention the name of the comedian at all. Does she really need more people knowing her name at this point? Or if I am adding to her woes? We will decide as we go. However, the question on everyone’s mind remained, will there be accountability of any sort?

The comedian released a video, apologising to RSS, Congress, NCP, and CMO (Maharashtra) for offending their sentiments with a joke, that logically doesn’t even target Shivaji. Apologies, Shivaji Maharaj. A large number of people on Twitter and Instagram (the High Courts of justice at this point) joined the wildfire, asking the female comedian to be tried in court. The irony remains that Shubham Mishra attracts section 503, 506 and 509 under the IPC for his vicious statements and rape threats endangering the dignity of a woman. But like most stories, the debate stayed strong.

Will an online movement against sick heads like Shubham Mishra achieve the desired result of making them an example of polarised views being punished or will the blame fall on an artist’s creative freedom? If we are really honest, freedom, since 2014, remains a negotiable right amidst us, unless you’re a wealthy Brahmin/Hindu in this country.

A less unknown video captures Sorabh Pant (another comedian, this article is blasphemy for most) and Devdutt Pattanaik, a well-known mythologist and author, discussing how to bridge the gap between extremists and liberals. A very solid argument from Devdutt says how intellectualism and dialogue, which are first-hand tools for resolving issues in a civil manner, aren’t the go-to options on one side. How can you really expect a caveman to understand the concept of facts, discussions and debates? He knows he will lose arguments to a civilised society, hence violence becomes his go-to tool. Shubham Mishra represents the cavemen community. They can’t do better because they don’t know any better. If you give a working phone to a monkey and then wonder at him misdialing numbers, maybe you’re the one with faultlines in expectations.

What is it that we can alter then? Will these half-formed humans continue to rule, while we wonder if Franklin J. Schaffner was really playing Nostradamus with his The Planet of The Apes series? Or is there still hope? For me, while I wake up to optimism of sun rays and chirping birds, these incidents push my limits on optimism.

Slacktivism on the internet is sometimes similar to juggling. You respond to your DMs, report a few stories, express your thoughts and that’s it. New day, new stories. The worst aspect remains the validation they receive from fellow netizens who justify actions and go nothing short of “Veer tum aage bado, hum tumhare saath hai.” While the internet might be effective in spreading information, how much pressure it put on the authorities remains hazy. However, I gave a schoolgirl squeal when Vadodara police decided to nab this 26-year-old “social worker” for rape threats addressing the comedian. It was a record-worthy arrest made by Gujarat Police, of all states, that deserved an applause.

But are similar cases dealt with the same swift? Rarely. This breed of pests seem to be popping every nook and corner. Most of the times our police system is left balancing the fulcrum, deciding who they can offend this time. Netizens or the community on fire. Most episodes of the said genre result in rape threats, specially to female comedians who are never spared, or self attested visas to Pakistan for the male comedians. It’s hilarious that these are the same hate mongers who demand “fresh content” from these comedians without an ounce of tolerance or a sense of humour. Youtube and Instagram allowed, and mind you, still continues to allow hate speeches of the sort on their platforms. Trimming content has been on debate with Twitter censoring tweets by Trump. These “influencers” with propaganda of hatred are essentially the easiest variety to quash. Believe me, no one will miss them. As for Agrima’s apology, it’s sad that she had to do it under an environment of pure threat and goonda raj, but can we really blame her? And yes, the comedian is called Agrima Joshua, her name isn’t the one that should be shying away from limelight.

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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.

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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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