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India Of 2020 Is Not The India Bhagat Singh Envisaged

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“Our country is in really bad shape; here are the strangest questions asked, but the foremost among them concerns the untouchables. For instance, would contact with an untouchable mean defilement of an upper caste? Would the Gods in the temples not get angry by the entry of untouchables there? Would the drinking water of a well not get polluted if untouchables drew their water from the same well? These questions are asked in the 20th century, which make us hang our heads in shame”.

Bhagat Singh wrote this in 1928, and he was aghast at the situation prevailing at that time. It will not be wrong to speculate that if he were alive today, he would still be aghast because the situation is almost the same. We have come a long way in India’s fight against the caste system, and we have been able to abate some of its effects too. But a long way is still to be covered as people are still asking strangest questions and getting involved in strangest debates, leaving aside the crucial topics necessary for the development of India.

Take the instance of the recent death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The actor died. People were not convinced with reports being shown in the media that the actor died by suicide. So, they demanded a C.B.I. probe, and it was granted. That should have been it because obviously debating about an ongoing case sounds right when done among friends, but when the National Media does so, it’s not good. And exactly this is happening right now. Nobody is asking the questions that need to be asked.

Representational image.

India’s GDP continues to shrink. Unemployment is on the peak. People are losing jobs. Families are under stress. Data is missing about migrant workers and health workers who got infected with COVID-19, the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise, farmers are on the streets, but no, NO-ONE-CARES.

Media is busy in upping their T.R.P. game. Politicians are busy diverting people’s attention to other useless issues. And people, people are busy being the puppets.

Questions need to be asked. Where did the government go easy? Where did the intelligence fail? Why was the government so ignorant and complacent regarding Coronavirus during the initial phases? Why didn’t it ramp up the medical facilities when it had time despite several warnings and suggestions from experts? Why were the migrant labourers left to die on roads? And still, the government boasts about taking care of all the migrant labourers. You know why?

Because we don’t ask the real questions. People in power need to be held accountable. It is not about being against or with the government. I personally think both the stances are equally harmful to the country. If you are with the government, you will not see any flaws, which is obviously detrimental to democracy. And if you are against the government, then you won’t ever see any merit in the government.

And also, both the stances defeat the whole purpose of elections. Elections need to be held on the basis of merit and flaws of the government, carefully and rationally observed and calculated. Taking sides would kill rationalism and would definitely defeat the whole purpose of elections.

So, questioning the government is not anti-national. It is a healthy exercise and helps the government too. Ask questions, but the right ones. This is what Bhagat Singh wanted from the youth of his nation.

Bhagat Singh founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore in 1926, whose manifesto said, “Religious superstitions and bigotry are a great hindrance in our progress. They have proved an obstacle in our way, and we must do away with them. ‘The thing that cannot bear freethought must perish’.”

Today, we need to remember the revolutionary ideas of Bhagat Singh. Mere admiration of his nationalism and ultimate sacrifice is not enough.

In 1928, Bhagat Singh was very much aware of the divisiveness of mixing religion with politics, and he wrote, “If religion is separated from politics, then all of us can jointly initiate political activities, even though in matters of religion we might have many differences with each other. We feel that the true well-wishers of India would follow these principles and save India from the suicidal path it is on at present.”

Reading his voice today seems like Bhagat Singh was talking about the current situation prevailing in 21st century India. Because, even today, many of us continue to aggressively mix religion with politics to promote political prospects. Today, when almost half of India’s population lives on less than $2 a day, the unemployment rate in the country is on the peak, autonomy of Independent pillars of the constitution is at risk and being questioned, women’s safety is a major concern, political leaders are supporting the accused rapists, transparency is being converted into opaqueness, we are more involved in asking questions such as, “Mandir banega ya Masjid”? (Will a temple be constructed or a mosque?)

We do not ask questions as, why are lynchings in India increasing? Why Is killing in the name of religion has become a new normal? Why are we having vigilante groups roaming around freely, with the support of the government? Who gives power to these groups to beat up common citizens of India?

Because in the past few years, religion has been so aggressively mixed with nationalism by the politicians that everything is a matter of concern of nationalism today.

“Tumhara dharm khatre mein hai, aur tumhe hi isi bachana hoga” (Your religion is in danger and you have to save it), provoking statements like these have been engraved into the minds of people so forcefully that people have started acting accordingly, and are now standing against their fellow citizens.

While one cannot also deny the fact India today was one of the fastest-growing economies (before COVID-19) in the world. And its economy has been continuously growing since 2014, but at the same time, communal harmony is also being threatened and disrupted, the constitution is being threatened, unity of India is being threatened since 2014.

And I think, that the growth of a country, which involves separation and division and death of its people, unemployment, poverty, opaqueness between government and people, the declining importance of the constitution, religious tensions, is not at all the kind of growth India needs.

Instead, it’s India’s biggest defeat.

This is not the kind of growth our freedom fighters envisaged.

This is not the kind of India Bhagat Singh envisaged.

Today, we need to remember the revolutionary ideas of Bhagat Singh. Mere admiration of his nationalism and ultimate sacrifice is not enough. In these tough times, his thoughts should inspire the people of India; it should inspire them to do something for the country; it should also inspire them to hold their loyalty towards humanity and nation and towards any political party or any politician.

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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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