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“There Is A Documented History Of Extra-Judicial Killings In Kashmir”

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“No parent should have to bury a child,” — a nightmare for many, but a reality for some.

Even though we aren’t living in the best of times, I’d like to think people aren’t as cruel as to wish this upon someone. We might have our differences, but on a humane level, I think most understand and empathise with the pain of having to bury a loved one, let alone a parent burying their child.

Unfortunately, in Kashmir (and other such regions), a parent burying their child is not an uncommon sight. No matter which generation you speak with, peace has always eluded us. We associate conflict with normal — content with what we’re given as opposed to what our rights are.

But cruelty seems to have no bounds and misery tries to best itself in Kashmir. While having to bury your child might seem cruel enough, Kashmir’s reality proceeds further into oblivion — a father digging an empty grave, pleading the body be returned.

There Is A Documented History Of Extra-Judicial Killings In Kashmir

Ather Mushtaq Wani’s father last saw him alive on the afternoon of 29 December. The 16-year-old class 11 student was later found among the three killed in the Lawaypora encounter that started in the night of 29 December and concluded in the morning of 30 December, 2020. On his way home from work, Ather’s father got a call from the local police station asking about his son. As he reached home, the crowd gathered outside his home informed him of his son’s death.

The other two killed were 20-year-old Aijaz Maqbool Ganaie, son of a Jammu and Kashmir police constable, and 23-year-old Zubair Ahmad Lone, whose two brothers are in the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

kashmir graves
Countless unmarked graves are scattered across Kashmir.

The families went to the Police Control Room (PCR) in Srinagar to see their kin for the last time. They staged a protest outside the PCR, alleging the three were killed in a staged/fake encounter. There is a long documented history of extrajudicial tortures and killings in Kashmir since the 90s, with family members still awaiting an answer from the government about those who’ve “disappeared“.

While these allegations may seem far-fetched to someone bereft or deluded of Kashmir’s reality, people who’ve lived beyond Jahangir’s quote (“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”) understand how complicated (or uncomplicated) it is.

And the recent Shopian murders (fake encounter) only highlight the extent of undue power security officials in the valley are afforded. According to reports, an Army Captain along with two civilian’s staged an encounter on 18 July, 2020, for reward money. Arms and ammunition were later planted on the bodies to pass them off as militants. The families of the three murdered — 25-year-old Abrar Ahmed, 20-year-old Imtiyaz Ahmed and 16-year-old Mohammed Ibrar — identified them after their pictures circulated on social media. The bodies were later exhumed after more than 2 months and handed over to the families.

As is “protocol“, bodies of those killed in encounters are buried far from home in unmarked graves. One such location is in Sonamarg, where Ather and the other two were buried, more than a 100 km away from their homes.

Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, Ather’s father, is one of the “lucky” one’s. Along with a few members of his family, he managed to reach the site where his son was about to be buried. In the dark of the night, he was forced to bury his son in a shallow, unmarked grave, a “privilege” many aren’t afforded.

Since then, the families of the three killed have staged several protests demanding the bodies be handed over to them. Right to human dignity puts an obligation on the State to have a decent burial of the deceased. Different resolutions adopted at international levels by the UN and International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) mandate the “return of remains”.

While security officials are kept on a pedestal in the rest of the country and any criticism against them is deemed baseless or their actions are justified, people who have faced unjustified brutality continue to suffer. The police brutality on show during the anti-CAA and farmers protests might help some realise that stories of such brutality by security officials in Kashmir aren’t overblown. Maybe that realisation can be the first step in recognising and understanding what Kashmiris have been going through.

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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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