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Opinion: In India and US, Race And Religion Decide Who’s A ‘Terrorist’ And A ‘Patriot’

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A Tale of Two Cities: Ayodhya And Washington D.C.

December 6, 1992. About 150,000 people gather to listen to speeches by the leaders of BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Incited by the passionate hate speeches made by leaders such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, this crowd later stormed the Babri Masjid. With weapons in their hands and deep-rooted Islamophobia in their minds, they climb atop this historic mosque and tear it down within the next few hours.

Demolition Of The Babri Masjid By Hindutva Mobs

As this sacrilege occurred and hundreds were injured, missing, and murdered, the police stood and watched. They claimed to be powerless against the brute force of the masses.

While the global community and millions of Indians condemned this communal violence and vandalism, many caste privilege Hindus said it was a moment of great pride, and a step closer to restoring the “former glory” of the Vedic Age. This formerly glorious society they speak of is one built on the oppression of the marginalized, womxn, minorities, and those at the intersections.

January 6, 2021. President Donald Trump, who has been falsely claiming that the election was “stolen” from him, encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” to “make America great again” and “take back our country” at the “Save America” rally that morning.

Instigated by his suggestion of violence, supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in hundreds in an attempt to disrupt a joint session of Congress. This session was in place to count the vote of the electoral college and confirm President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory in the recent US Presidential elections.

Apart from spreading terror, this mob vandalized public property, broke doors and windows, and was heavily armed. This insurgency has led to the death of four civilians.

Trump supporters breach security and break into the Capitol.

Where were the police?  Why didn’t they stop them?

Recall the violence- the guns, the water spray tanks, and tear gas BLM protestors were met with. Recall the open firing directed at students in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia during the Anti-CAA protests.

Top left: Police watch silently as Gunman fires at Anti-CAA Protestors. Bottom left: Open firing at Jamia Millia Islamia during the Anti-CAA protests. Top right: Security during the BLM movement in the USA. Bottom right: Police and Capitol Hill attackers on 8th Jan 2021

Reality glares us in the face – the systems which we have built around us are designed to be instruments for the oppressor. The same people who were apparently powerless against the rioters at the Capitol on the 6th of January and at Babri on the 6th of December 29 years back, did not even think twice before shooting at students, minorities, and People of Colour.

In India and US, Race And Religion Determine The Difference Between Terrorist And Patriot

Words have the power to influence people as much as the fear of guns does. So, we have to note the words used to describe events of such kind, when organized by different groups of people.

The right-wing media hailed the attack of the Babri Masjid as a ‘rally’, ‘protest’, ‘demonstration’, and even went as far as denying the violence in the entire incident. Meanwhile, words such as ‘attack’, ‘uprising’, ‘insurrection’, and ‘terrorism’ were used to describe protests against the communal and exclusionary Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Similarly, several right-wing media outlets in the United States which referred to Antifa and peaceful BLM protestors as terrorists to delegitimize the movement were quick to defend the white supremacist mob by using gentler words as well as diluting the magnitude of destruction.

The message sent by the Republican party in the US and the BJP in India is loud and clear. The race, gender, caste, class, religion, and sexuality of people determines who is the terrorist and who is the patriot. Organized and peaceful protests against injustice are called riots, vandalism, and violence is a display of nationalism.

The lynching of Muslims, People of Colour, and other minorities in India and America with the comfortable support of state mechanism screams, “Oppressors are not your friends, but neither are the police!”

In countries that claim to be the flagbearers of democracy, large communities of people carry the scars of the past and continue to live in fear. Yet those who are culpable of serious crimes against humanity are unapologetic, worse- they’re hailed, heroes.

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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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