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The Promise Of A Developing, Terror-Free J&K After Revoking Article 370 Is Nowhere To Be Seen

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For some, the abrogation of Article 370 was simply a declaration, but for others, it was a declaration of state-sponsored terrorism on Jammu and Kashmir. The following records prove the latter surmise:

In different events of violence, there have been at least 347 killings, including that of 74 civilians in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir in the first seven months of 2020, reports Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Between 1st January and 1st August, more than 197 militants — of which 83% were locals — have been killed in counter-insurgency operations. The official data mentions increased militant practice since 2019.

In March 2020, the country’s Home Ministry announced in the two houses of Parliament that between 5th August, 2019, and 29th February, 2020, 7,358 people have been arrested in Kashmir. But according to various human rights bodies, the number is much higher — over 13,000.

5th August, 2020, marks one year since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status and the state was bifurcated into Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Home Minister Amit Shah held Article 370 to be the root cause of terrorism in Kashmir, alluding to the “mismanaged” autonomy the state enjoyed.

However, the record-shattering and unrecorded human rights violations in the state prove that Article 370 was neither the cause of terrorism in the state nor will its abrogation quantify any reduction of the same. These revocations have only been implemented for the state to be solely governed by the Centre, and by govern, I mean strangle it with massive masculine militarisation sponsored by the Hindu-nationalist government of the country.

Man writing go india go back on wall
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To avoid resistance and voices disobeying the national narrative, all modes of communication were suspended, leaving the region with no internet and causing unrelenting trouble for Kashmiris, especially students. A year later, and the picture hasn’t entirely changed. So much for ‘Digital India’ or should I say ‘Digital Mainland India’?

Infringing the Right to Freedom of Press and Right to Freedom of Expression, the Jammu and Kashmir police filed cases against two Kashmiri journalists under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), according to the bi-annual Human Rights Review of January-June 2020.

Along with zero connectivity, violation of fundamental rights as well as the imposition of Article 356 (President’s Rule), the state has also witnessed routine arrests of at least 4,000 people under the state’s Public Safety Act, which allows the government to detain anyone above the age of 16 years without any trial for two years. Union Minister G Kishan Reddy said on 5th August, 2019, that 5,161 “preventive arrests” had been made in the Kashmir Valley.

Moving on to the issue of allegiance of the Indian government towards the women of Kashmir, the answer is simple — women’s bodies have been weaponised and turned into battlegrounds by the Indian army. The JKCCS reported that on 13th May, 2020, during a raid in a village in Budgam, Nasrullah Pora, by the armed personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), women were tied to trees and physically tortured.

Rolling back to August 2019, soon after the change of status of Kashmir, Indian men on Twitter celebrated their perceived benefit from the provision. “Marrying Kashmiri girls” started taking the shape of a trend on Twitter, and in line with these sentiments, Google Trends reported a surge in “Kashmiri girls” on 5th August, right after the revocation.

As these were passed on as jests and limericks on social media, there was and still exists an undertone of violent regressive mentality towards women and their materialisation. The tweets illustrate how political agendas highly direct towards sexualisation and dehumanisation of Kashmiri women.

Kashmir is one of the most heavily securitised and militarised states in the world, and the conflict has left 70,000 dead, as approximated by the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Over years of this conflict and the resultant policing, an insurmountable number of women have been sexually harassed, battered and raped by Indian security forces. The government has consistently denied such claims, but investigations by international organisations have a different story to tell.

Human Rights Watch has reported that these events occur during two scenarios: search or cordon operations. One of the most horrific incidents of gender-based violence in the region was the Kunan Poshpora mass rape case in 1991. The Indian Army raped 23-100 Kashmiri women during a raid in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora. Even after 29 years, the victims await justice and compensation from the Indian State.

Kangri kashmir
Representational Image. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The BJP-led Central government has fulfilled its promise of abrogating Article 370 and successfully turned the State of Jammu and Kashmir into a protectorate. However, a year later, the achievements of this step are still nebulous. The obvious questions that need to be asked here are: how much has the insurgency and interference from Pakistan reduced in Kashmir and how much development that was assured after the removal of Article 370 has the state witnessed?

Unfortunately, the level of disturbance has only seen an upward motion since 5th August, 2019. “Development can defeat terrorism” is one of the most commonly used phrases by our incumbent government for Kashmir. However, this is an oversimplified approach for a state that is more of an issue at this point. The conflict of Kashmir is a concoction of historical and political grievances, cross-border disputes and religious-ethnic clashes, and this mountain of problems will barely move with a counter-benefitting prospect of development-defeating terrorism.

Also, the Indian State has been carrying out settlers’ colonialism in Kashmir in the form of land seizures, genocide of the indigenous people, altering of its demography, enabling military and illegal occupation, communalism and causing a plethora of climate and environmental hazards.

With growing dissent all over the country, disgruntled Kashmiri politicians and the interference of Pakistan in the Valley, the Centre can only hold off its responsibility towards the State a little longer. Once it’s done sniffing out all freedom, New Delhi has to build a road on its own for Kashmir.

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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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