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An Open Letter To Professor Hany Babu On His Birthday

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Dear Uncle,
Happy Birthday.

It is so surreal, sitting here writing this letter to you, addressing this letter to you as ‘Professor Hany Babu’. It is so incredibly ridiculous that anyone could possibly believe you to be the ‘terrorist’ and ‘conspirator’ they claim you are. (I would laugh if it didn’t make me want to cry.)

You, who I saw for the first time when you came to mine and your daughter’s school exhibition three years ago, as you stood quietly, smiling, nodding, with your hands awkwardly in your pockets while Jenny Aunty and I excitedly giggled and chattered over literature?

You, who passed in a blur of silver on the street under the glare of the sun at 8 in the morning, driving your daughter to school, as I desperately tried to wave to her from my bus window?

You, arrested a day after she turned 17. (Were there remnants of the cake, still, in the fridge, when they came for you?)

And for what? For fighting for the anti-caste movement and ensuring that all children should be able to at least dream of coming to their dream universities? For reading the books that they took in as ‘evidence’?

Or was it for having the audacity to fight for the basic human rights of another human being, for fighting for the freedom of speech and ideology in these times of neoliberal Hindutva? (I am sorry, I forget, is that what was so ‘criminal’?)

Uncle, I, too, want to address you as ‘Sir’ and ‘Professor’.

I want to say that the only reason I am outraged and bereaved is that because what is happening to you is, fundamentally, inarguably and inexpressibly wrong.

I want to say that the only reason I am in utter and complete disbelief is that after this, any and all pretence of democracy and justice and freedom of expression is gone, and we don’t even have tatters of denial to cling to, and that everything about ‘justice’ we rote-learned in the first chapter of our sixth-grade civics book, never existed at all.

I want to say that everything that I am feeling, and typing with shaking fingers, has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the fact that I remember one random day last year when you bought me and Farzana’s friend orange bars from a nearby stand, and that the wind was blowing and we were laughing and you were there and now you are not.

Because as much as I want you to be only ‘Professor Hany Babu’, yet another name in the ever-continuing list of incarcerated academics and lawyers and activists, relentlessly mentioned in Instagram stories until you are not. You are not another undeniable ‘proof’ of classic-history textbook fascism. For me, you are just Uncle.

Image source: Facebook/Abha Dev Habib

And I want every single one of you reading this, to know that. To understand what this means, and why you, you who read this on your laptop or phone in the safety of your home for whom this basic violation of human rights was not enough, who has the privilege to ‘debate’ and call it an ‘issue’. Why it is you, who above everyone should care and weep and shout in protest every single day Uncle is in jail.

Because you are not safe. You are not safe, and neither is your neighbour, your friend’s father, and your father.
If my seventeen-year-old friend’s orange-bar buying father was not safe for daring to advocate for the rights of fellow human beings, then neither are you.

And, if you have even the slightest of fear and horror because of that, then you will resist, then you will fight, fight for Uncle, for Professor Hany Babu, as hard as you can, until you don’t have to until you can wish him in person.

Until then (because, ‘then’ is coming, and ‘then’ is coming soon),
Happy Birthday!

Love,
Aditi

Featured image for representation only.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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