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Decoding PAT-RIOT-ISM: What It Really Means Vis-à-Vis What It Is In 2021 India

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Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, a sense of attachment to the homeland and with the citizens who share the same sentiment. Patriotism is the love that supersedes any individual’s vested interest. Just like our parents’ love- unconditional and sacred, patriotism is to serve the country through our hard work. Just as a farmer, who tries to produce crops in a way that feeds the people of his land, patriotism is the inner calling or ‘Swadharma’ which feeds the health of the mind and therefore, the health of the nation.

However, in a world increasingly being taken over by extremist ideologies, the idea of patriotism has been distorted to serve the likelihood of a few. The new concept of patriotism, a form of jingoism, is where loyalty is sought for the dominant ruling establishment and not for the country. A loyalty which is militarized and any opposition to it is now largely being considered as anti-national.

PATriotism- The Notion Of Superiority

In George Barnard Shaw’s words, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it”.

The genesis of the word ‘Patriotism’ goes way back to the Greek century. The Greek word ‘pater‘ (father) is the basis of the word ‘patris’ or native land and so patriotic means ‘the love of country’. The word Patris thus being connected to Patriarchy.

The nature of a patriarch is chauvinistic, egoistic and overbearing. So maybe yes, patriotism means love for one’s country but now that affection is turning to prove who is the strongest.

This patriarchy is not gender-specific, rather it includes the underlying notions of war, supremacy and violence that has percolated in our way of resistance.

The use of water canons, thrashing/ maligning one’s character on social media and use of extra-constitutional means by the state all point towards the fact that as a patriarch, it has now become predetermined to prove oneself correct always and legitimise authority over others.

patRIOTism- The Violent Nature Of Our Expression

Today, a revolutionary air blows around us demanding change not through intellectual dissent but rather through physical onslaught. A purely philosophical movement may be inert but an overly aggressive movement is surely destructive. As protests sweep through the streets, burning down buildings with bullets and stones stealing lives, it is clear that the idea of patriotism is in peril. In the year that went by, we saw many such ‘patriotic acts’- The ultimate being a chaotic transition of the US presidency.

White nationalism, religious fundamentalism, the brutal conduct of the police against the anti-CAA protesters, #MobLynchings by religious fanatics, the spread of populism and retreat of democracy worldwide, poisoning an opponent, the rise of the far-right in Europe, and the list continues. All these recurring actions are a violent form of ‘pseudo patriotism’ which have dampened it in spirit, swinging the pendulum towards a cynical narrative of inferiority and insecurity.

Countries across the globe have witnessed oppression and have suffered at the hands of their own people. But now the time is to mend this history of flaws. To dream of a commitment to equality and justice. Patriotism must not be the fabric blindfolding us to injustices rather guide us towards change.

India flag
In a world increasingly being taken over by extremist ideologies, the idea of patriotism has been distorted to serve the likelihood of a few. Representational image.

PatriotISM- A Theory In Making

Although many of us fear associating ourselves with the term ‘political’, we all come across certain words like capitalism, socialism, jingoism, nationalism, patriotism etc. in our day to day lives. But Patriotism has been around and in trend for quite a long time. Just like a salesman, today, ill-informed hooligans are around selling their super biased products wrapped in the box of hate speech and discord. But unlike a good customer, we have mindlessly fallen in line to buy things on their face value. We form our opinion blindly by listening to the best salesman. Therefore even after remaining ‘apolitical’, those WhatsApp forwards sell their products very easily to us. Hence, being rational and developing a critique of violence within democratic institutions is necessary.

The principle of ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) holds true.

Alternatives: Pop Culture

Misinformation and provocation have from time to time turned peaceful protests into violent unrest causing harm to citizens and deviate the course from the real cause of the protest. But amidst the growing violence, these disobedience acts by protesters have assimilated into our culture. Symbolism has become a part of social movement strategies which establishes a multidirectional relationship between Popular Culture and Protests.

For centuries, popular culture has been an opening to self-expression and it’s in these times of dissent that it’s needed the most. There is a need for an exchange of information and projection of an image that resonates with the public and thus, calls for an association between the two.

Gandhi in his time created the culture of charkha and khadi. The binge-watch Netflix series ‘La Casa de Papel’ (Money Heist) used Salvador Dali Masks (a symbol of the Zurich movement rejecting capitalist society) and Bella Ciao (an Italian song against the fascist regime). In India, the anti CAA movement made ‘Hum dekhenge’, a ghazal by Faiz Ahmed Faiz popular in the times of rap music and beatboxing. In Hong Kong, people sang a song from an Oscar-winning movie ‘Les Miserables’.

Engagements with the cultural codes of “the people” gives legitimacy to drive mobilization. Using these methods has a long-lasting impact on us and this tradition of culture and political awakening must be taken further.

In these unprecedented times when the environment is increasingly being subsumed in anger, fear, hatred and resentment it is for us to realise that our notion of patriotism must cultivate the health and life of our community, bringing welfare for all and staging an all-inclusive society. To cultivate this within us, we should first reflect upon whether we are masters of our own thoughts and actions or not. Nobody should dictate us because nothing is too high as a price to be paid for owning yourself.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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