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What Is The Idea Of India?

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So the day of 15 August has come again on our Gregorian Calendars, marking the anniversary of the day when the present Nation of India finally got its Independence from decades of foreign occupation. The midnight speech of our first Prime Minister on that fateful night very beautifully summarised the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the citizens of a new nation standing on the foundations of an old and continuous civilization. Some of those dreams became a reality; some of them are still a dream, yet to be fulfilled.

73 years have passed since that day; lots of things have changed in the nation and the world. Yet, many issues, challenges remain. And now, a new challenge, a new enemy in the form of a widespread pandemic has come which has brought the speedy journey of our nation and its citizens to a halt. Thousands have died directly due to COVID-19 diseases; thousands others are still dying due to the social-economic scarcity that is emerging due to the pandemic. While the popular government and concerned citizens are doing their best to prevent this, the pandemic and its side-effects are still accelerating.

And amid the pandemic, let’s not forget the other viruses which have infected the minds and hearts of Indians for decades. The viruses of casteism, communalism, greed, misogyny, queer-phobia, neglect of economically poor after your economic upliftment; these are as deadly as the COVID-19 virus, and the main reason why India is not yet a Super Power.

These are the main roadblocks that prevent the emancipation of every Indian citizen from the gallows of poverty, prejudice and mutual distrust. A significant population of our nation still spends their lives below the poverty line, devoid of necessities and amenities, which are rights of every human.

Yet most of us remain confined in our ghetto-bubbles, consuming the regular venom of misinformation, stereotyping, lies via unverified WhatsApp forwards, fake reactionary posts, over-hyped news debates, and most importantly, the dogmas we receive from our own family and friends and keep them as it is in our hearts and minds, without any self-verification. And in this way, unknowingly, we become the silent carriers of all these social viruses and unknowingly, unintentionally we spread them forward, assuming that we are doing this for good, for our nation, for India.

India is an ideology, a humanist ideology, that is above all religions, regions, colour and languages.

But what is India, have you ever wondered? Is it a political and geographical landmass of 3.3 million square kilometres? Or a group of 1.3 billion people? Or just a conglomeration of people with different religious, regional and linguistic identities? Can a language define India? Or can India be defined by a religion? No. India is above all these concepts.

India is not only a nation; it is more than a nation. It is an art of living, a way of surviving and progressing in this Kalyug. It is an ideology, a humanist ideology, that is above all religions, regions, colour and languages. It stands for universal tolerance for everyone; hence, if anyone says that particular activity or a particular thing is “against Indian culture”, they are spreading a lie.

The true Indian culture is strict adherence to the concept of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम, of one universal family. This is the summary of all the Vedas; this is the summary of Buddha and Mahavir. This is the essence of India to which Prophet Muhammad referred as the “sweet cold breeze of knowledge blowing from the land of the Hind”; this is the message of India spread by Swami Vivekananda to the West.

Hence, whatever is there in the world is Indian, and whatever is Indian is international. India is the world, and the world is India. This basic mantra defines India. Once we realize the essence of this India and make ourselves immune to the viruses of unnatural pride and arrogance associated with region, religion, caste, birth, gender, sex or any other unnatural concept, then only we can serve our nation to the fullest.

The present COVID-19 pandemic is just a reminder to the fact that all the divisions among humans that we treat as rock-solid and natural are just fictional and temporary. And it applies to all humans living inside the boundary of the Republic of India. Together as one human species of a nation, we can overcome the pandemic and the socio-economic effects of it, and unless and until the pandemic is erased from this planet, no nation, people, group is safe.

Together, as one species, we can defeat this pandemic. Together, as one human species, we can prosper. And as a subset of this united human species, the citizens of India can take the lead, reaffirm their belief in humanity, cure themselves of the anti-human viruses of bigotry over the region, religion, etc. and establish the Indian nation as the leader of the entire humanity.

Jai Hind. Jai Bharati. All Hail Humanity.

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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 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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