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From Hatred To Joining Hands: Here Is What Went Down Between Shaheen Bagh And The BJP

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The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) got a boost on August 16 as several Shaheen Bagh residents, who were in a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, joined the ranks and files of the ruling party.

In the words of Delhi BJP Chief Adesh Gupta, more than a 100 families from nearby areas of Shaheen Bagh reposed trust, faith and belief in the actions and commitment of honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Due to the sincere efforts of the PM and his party members, the archival Triple Talaq Law was brought to an end through commanding legislation in the Parliament, promising equality, liberty and justice to Muslim women. Moreover, he added, those who support and oppose the CAA and NRC legislation were not wholly against the BJP, as was mistaken by those who saw these protest movements as a hand pick by the Opposition for upping the ante against the policies and schemes of the ruling BJP dispensation at the Centre.

The very conduct of the protesting Muslim women in Shaheen Bagh was mocked at and questioned by the activists and cadres of the BJP. They charged these women of working at the behest of the Opposition, as a plot against wanting to unsettle the BJP government at the Centre. The Biryani debate was renewed many a times to break the moral support, strength and confidence of these women engaged in sit-ins at Shaheen Bagh, impacting the lives and livelihood of the ordinary resident of the capital.

The Kalindi Kunj stretch was temporarily shut, as it was hindering the travel of the commuters who travelled on this stretch to and from their respective workplaces. This forced many RWAs in and around Shaheen Bagh to take out a march highlighting their genuine grievances due to the closure of the stretch. The Shaheen Bagh protest movement gradually began to attract a lot of interest and attention from individuals from activism, academia, and the intellectual and literary circles. They became active agents of the movement, seeking urgent response and intervention by the apparatus and agencies of the state.

On the contrary, these individuals were painted as anti-national, anti-conservatives and anti-establishment for their courage to speak the truth against the power as, a month earlier, the Delhi Police had cracked down on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia, creating outrage on the campus that led to a situation of conflict and chaos. These students were equated with those who were strongly raising their dissenting voices against the passage of CAA and NRC then-Bill by the Parliament to fuel the crisis and confusion in the minds and hearts of the people.

shahzad ali from shaheen bagh joins bjp getty
Those who support and oppose the CAA and NRC legislation were wholly not against the BJP, as was mistaken by those who saw these protest movements, said Delhi BJP Chief Adesh Gupta who was present at the announcement. Image credit: Twitter/BJP

Safoora Zargar, a young Jamia research scholar, is still paying the price for speaking up on what she thought was right at the first place and instance, fairly being dismissed by the bandwagon of the far-right nationalists. The CAA and NRC were conceived as a legitimate instrument for stifling and snatching the rights and liberties of the Muslim community and embracing the right’s ideological project of a Hindu Rashtra.

Similar efforts on part of the ruling dispensation were made to popularise, organise and mobilise support for the CAA then-Bill by drawing people’s support for the legislation, thus sowing seeds of doubts in the minds of those who believed CAA to be in the interest of the countrymen. The BJP’s morality stand intertwines with the principles, views, beliefs, customs and codes fulfilling the aspirations of a culturally charged nationalism closely held by the adherents and proponents of the party.

Interestingly, the induction of these joinees within the ranks and file of the ruling BJP will witness how the party functionaries react and respond to their growing unease and disquiet over the CAA legislation, and whether it will turn out to be an eyewash as they might fear punitive legal measures if their name, at all, crops up in the charge sheet.

I believe, before arriving at any consensus or conclusion, I would want to see how this step plays out in the open if not for the CAA or Triple Talaq law if it were to ensure their mainstreaming or marginalisation if not at all for Hindutva. It is now up to the mature Muslim citizenry to carefully choose their positions.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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