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The Politics Of Muslim Exclusion And Isolation In India

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In Rajasthan’s Sikar district, a 52-year-old auto driver, Ghaffar Ahmed, was attacked and thrashed by miscreants, who also yanked his beard and forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Modi Zindabad”. Ghaffar sustained a head injury along with injuries on his waist, legs and fists.

After an FIR was filed by Ghaffar Khan, the police arrested two men who were identified as Rajendra and Shambhudayal, citizens of nearby villages in Sikar. The accused also have several cases of physical assault, robbery and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act registered against them.

In 2017, Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Nuh district in Haryana, was allegedly attacked and murdered by a cow vigilante group affiliated with the right-wing Hindutva camp. Similar attempts were made by far-right Hindutva groups, individuals and organisations to derail the protest movement organised by the women in Shaheen Bagh earlier this year against the unruly and unjust legislation passed by the Parliament in December 2019.

Fuelling communal riots in Delhi’s North East where after the provocative statements of BJP leader Kapil Mishra, mobs were passionately aroused by being forced into action for inciting violence, arson and loot as the administration became inept and lax in controlling it.

I do find that the legislation aiming to reform the social, cultural and religious rituals and practices of Muslims runs in sharp contrasts to the perceptions of Muslims from within, as by stoking their anxieties and fears in the face of popular mandate, doing the greatest nature of dissatisfaction to their primary interests and objectives by signalling any form of engagement with the state agencies and apparatus.

I still remember how the national media was busy playing the clips after the Centre legislated on the Triple Talaq Bill, declaring it a rightful piece of justice promising dutiful liberation of the Muslim women from the clutches of orthodoxy and conservatism of the Muslim patriarch.

Arguments were made on as to how the former Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi succumbed to the popular pressure of Muslim clerics by overturning the decision of the apex court in the Shah Bano case and how the approach of Modi government was diametrically different towards it.

Secularism has become an alien and the worst casualty under the NDA led BJP government being referred to as a term unknown to the Indian culture and civilisation.

In many of the illustrations, the Centre has often stoked populism and rhetorics in dealing, deliberating and negotiating with the policy concerns of the minorities in the country. It is the foremost priority of the State to sideline their apprehensions for the reforms to be made practically purposeful for systematically upgrading and ameliorating their well being, life and living.

On the contrary, they are being systematically discriminated and deprived of their basic liberties and rights which they can dutifully proclaim being the natural citizens of the country often being “othered” and “seconded” by the vested interests. Secularism has become an alien and the worst casualty under the NDA led BJP government being referred to as a term unknown to the Indian culture and civilisation, synonymous for being against the tenets of cultural nationalism propounded and preached by the BJP.

The Ram Temple consecration in Ayodhya should have settled the equations between the Hindus-Muslims by way of peace, harmony, tolerance and brotherhood, but it chose the other way round by deepening the already existing fissures whereby the fundamentalists and conservatives of the majority community were rewarded with an opportunity to settle their scores.

Faith, which is so intrinsic to us Indians is causing malice whereby we are up against our fellow beings to prove our might and strength numerically as we seem to be abhorring the inclusive and integrationist principles and philosophy of Hinduism by opting for the repulsive and reactionary Hindutva, innately basing our value in being instigated and incited towards lynching and a sense of collective abuse and violence which inappropriately places our moral virtue and wisdom on the top.

By being pinned as ideological foot soldiers of the right-wing, Hindutva has misinterpreted and deflected us from seeking state response on the larger and wide issues that impacts and influences our sustainability and survival, be it for any.

What we are witnessing in the face of Muslim exclusion and isolation in India points to this pertinent view and fact, as in the view of Karl Marx: “Religion is but an opium of the masses and the state is making the best purpose of it by shifting its goalposts in a routine and relaxed manner.” Corona has provided it with an escape route whereby it is not answerable to our miseries and woes and we ought to become Atma Nirbhar for fulfilling our aspirational minimalist wants.

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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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