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A Letter To Umar Khalid, My Friend And Comrade

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Dear Umar,

The last couple of days have been difficult for all of us. I cannot sit down to imagine what you must be going through. I just hope you are safe.

It has been 2.5 years since I’ve known you. Ever since the other night, I’ve been getting constant flashbacks of our conversations.

Your words have been echoing in my head. I have been trying to stay strong, but I am not sure I have been very successful.

I feel quite shattered, helpless, and angry. It is funny because I know you have not lost hope.

You are the strongest and bravest person I know. You have given me and so many others courage, strength, and hope when we needed it the most. You stood up for all of us. It is time for us to do the same for you. We owe it to you.

In March 2018, after extensively watching a bunch of your interviews and public speeches, I ended up sending you a DM on Instagram to which I didn’t expect a reply. Little did I know that would cultivate one of the most treasured friendships in my life.
Seven days later, you did reply and followed me back. I was ecstatic. What followed was a long chat and a collaborative article for my blog.

I want to mention two things from that collaboration. You initially did not agree to do it because as a cis-man, you did not want to grab the mic and talk about something in which you lacked lived experiences. And, I remember your answer when I asked if you were a feminist. You told me you were becoming a feminist each day, becoming more aware, learning and unlearning so much but cannot claim that you are one already. These were absolutely life-changing lessons for my 17-year old self’s meaning of feminism.

Image provided by the author.

Ever since then, you have taught me so many things. About life, society, politics, activism. I am so grateful to you for everything. You have had to face a million rocks thrown at you over the last few years. My anxious self has been worried about and panicked for you. But, no matter what it was, you always had something positive to say. The JNU administration was not accepting your PhD thesis, the one for which you worked so hard. You told me, “They cannot take away what I have learned.”

There was an assassination attempt on you and you said, “Those useless fellows couldn’t even kill me.” Always with that bright smile on your face. I do not know how you do it. How are you never scared or worried? How are you so positive and hopeful? Your optimism and resilience triumph everything. Each day, I try and learn something from you.

I think this scares the ones in power the most, your courage and your fearlessness. You once told me, “The laughter of our children scares the fascists the most.” You have spoken about truth and peace. You have believed and followed the ideals of Ambedkar and Gandhi. You have loved this country and its people more than anyone. You are paying a price for all of that. You are paying a price for your name, for being a PhD scholar, and for being a brave leader with a Muslim identity.


With so much hatred around you, you have always spoken of love. I feel sorry for the people who are fabricating and believing in the lies and propaganda, calling you names. I feel sorry that they do not know you as a person. Because having you as a friend, brother, philosopher and comrade in my life is something I am so grateful for.

I am not sure if you know how much you have impacted my life and my ideas. You are funny, kind, and humble. Maybe, not that funny. Your jokes are really lame. But your humility is incomparable. You have never made me feel stupid in front of you, which is something I was so worried about. You appreciated and cheered for my writing, my campaigns, and activism. You were willing to help with anything I needed, from research in school and college assignments to relationship advice. You were the most patient listener to my midnight rants.

I know you are an atheist. But still, I will pray for you. As you once said, “In the face of injustice, our silence is as political as our act of speaking up.” No matter how insignificant a change it creates, I will continue to raise my voice. Stand up against the wrong and speak the truth. This is the only way I will be able to do justice to your friendship, comradery and teaching.

Thank you for everything. You are the bravest and most resilient person I know. You will get through this. I hope for the day when we can again laugh about my anxiety over these false charges. This too shall pass. You shall come out of it, even braver.

Love and solidarity,
Prakshi

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  1. Ankit Anand

    What a miracle….nowadays people are inspired by those people who wish to divide India. You didn’t see Dr.Kalam & Swami Vivekanda as an inspiration. Perhaps, there is lack of many things during your bringing up.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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