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Caste Based Violence, Migrant Crisis, CAA And Kashmir Have One Thing In Common: The BJP

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India entered the year 2020 when the world was grappling with Coronavirus (Covid-19). There were only a few hundred cases when India hosted U.S. President Donald Trump and people assembled in thousands to rally behind Modi to host a right-wing leaning Trump and to make him feel at home, this time more than ever.

CAA Protests

Protests against the CAA-NRC.

Then, protests started happening all over India against the discriminatory CAA, which provides citizenship to all migrants of neighbouring nations of India except Muslims. It was apparent Muslims would revolt. People were beaten, abused, and intellectuals and academicians were threatened, some jailed, some are still in jail, and charge sheets have been filed against some in recent months. Arrests have not stopped yet.

Then, the riots happened. Hindus killed Muslims and many Hindus were also killed in this madness. While the political and elite class were enjoying in their AC rooms and foreign countries, India’s poor were killing each other on Delhi’s streets. I have mentioned in another article about this madness and the fear me and my friends will feel during our next visit to Delhi, fear we didn’t feel before 2014.

Although arrests and killings of Muslims and Kashmiris happened before 2014 as well, it did not resemble the kind of fear we are living under now. The present madness and fear and hate-mongering have crossed all limits. You don’t know what will happen next on Delhi, Mumbai or UPs streets. A mob might beat or kill you anytime over your Muslim or Kashmiri or even Dalit identity. Hate has consumed Indian society so much that it looks now beyond repair. Some activists had hinted of this undeclared emergency and now many feel like we are living under it.

Lockdown 2020: Of Migrants And Kashmiris

Then, India’s ruling BJP enforced a nationwide lockdown without much care for its poor and migrants. Covid-19 was communalised and Muslims were held responsible for its spread. India earned a tag of the only country where a pandemic was communalised.

Migrants couldn’t live and stay in their rented apartments beyond a month or two and started walking on foot to their homes without any money in pockets. Some died due to hunger on roads and some due to the virus. But the ruling class was less worried as China started to occupy land at the Ladakh border and killed Indian soldiers. The only thing the ruling party did was feed the poor with ultra-nationalism and provided Kashmiris misery under the lockdown.

Democracy and justice are eroding day by day in India. Dalits are being raped and Muslims are being killed on an everyday basis. Journalists are threatened openly by Hindutva thugs and even by some BJP and right-wing leaning politicians. The media has gone into hibernation or licking the boots of the ruling right-wing politicians. Fascism is on the rise — those who criticise the government land in jail. Accountability and justice are words only to be found in dictionaries in India.

The Media, Caste Based Violence And Ram Mandir

Indian media, under the patronage of right-wing parties, mostly under BJP, is playing at the hands of mobs. TRP driven media trials are conducted even before investigative agencies come to any conclusion. Bollywood, which is mostly progressive, is now feeling the heat. Media and right-wing politicians have gone after it, mostly after it’s female actors.

The rape of a Dalit girl in India’s largest but caste riddled state recently has exposed India’s caste system and its ills and injustices and atrocities perpetrated under it, and right-wing politicians’ ill intentions to the world. The girl was allegedly raped and then beaten, her tongue was cut off and spine broken. She died after two weeks in a Delhi hospital. Her dead body was denied to her family and she was cremated secretly by the police under pressure from UPs BJP government which is headed by Ajay Singh Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath.

Then the Babri verdict paved the way for Ram Mandir’s construction and acquitted all members of the BJP who were previously found involved in the demolition of the Babri mosque. But it was nothing new as BJP has come to this stage riding on the Hindutva wave of the 1990s and the demolition of this historical mosque.

There is total suffocation all around. Barricades and concertina wires are laid on every nook and corner and every street of Kashmir.

Lockdown In Kashmir

High-speed internet is still denied to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which has hugely impacted the studies of school children who were looking for online education due to the closure of schools. Promotion to the next classes without classes and examinations have continued since last year when Jammu and Kashmir were stripped of its semi-autonomous status and put under strict lockdown.

There is total suffocation all around. Barricades and concertina wires are laid on every nook and corner and every street of Kashmir. Thousands of young boys have been rendered jobless due to the internet shutdown in Kashmir and now Covid-19 has added to this misery. Thousands in India have died due to the unorganised lockdown.

Then a fake encounter for medals and money was staged by the armed forces, as has happened before many times, in which three labourers from Rajouri district were killed in Shopian. There seems no end to the sufferings of the common people.

Farmers are protesting against the new Farm Bill (which has become an act since then) for its discriminatory nature. India’s economy shrank by more than 23% and lakhs of jobs have been lost due to the pandemic and ill policies of the right-wing ruling class.

Pakistan, Muslims and the Kashmir card is being used to whip up communal frenzy and ultra-nationalism to hide BJPs failures on the economic and job front. Darkness and smoke have engulfed the Indian society. There seems no end to the miseries of common people and India’s health sector is in shambles with its lowest budget expenditure. People are dying of hunger and unemployment is driving people to suicides.

New Nationalism

The biggest problem is that the present right-wing dispensation has no remedy to the common man’s misery. It has only nationalism and communal cards in its kitty, which it plays from time to time to divert the attention of the common people from real social and economic issues. But even these cards have an expiry date which people have started to realise now.

It will take time for people to fully realise their right-wing party has exploited people’s emotions and betrayed their promises. To fight and hope are the only weapons for common people to end this misery and lawlessness and save this sinking ship of democracy and justice.

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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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