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Is Southern India Threatened By Terrorism? The UN Believes So

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Ken Booth and Tim Dunne in their book Worlds in Collision defined terrorism as a political method that uses violence against the public and public infrastructure to influence behaviour, inflict punishment or exact revenge. Its instruments are assassination, mass killing, hijacking, bombing, kidnaping and intimidation. They also defined terrorism as an act and not an ideology that can be perpetrated by certain militant groups, individuals and even governments. In short, the book describes it to be an act of instilling fear in the minds and atmosphere forever to gain power or to prove a point.

Norman Lowe in his book Modern World History, described how contentious the definition of terrorism is. He argued in the book: “For people engaged in a legitimate struggle for independence, are the Mau Mau in Kenya and the African National Congress in South Africa terrorists or revolutionaries and freedom fighters?” Theory of constructivism tell us that the definition of terrorism depends on the one defining terrorism. However, any act of violence that poses a threat to human life and property is a violation of human rights.

The Al-Qaeda (the Base), an Arab organisation headed by Osama bin Laden, in its early years was formed at the backdrop of the Cold War towards the end of 1980s. Norman Lowe in his book wrote that it was actually financed and trained by the USA to expel the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. After their withdrawal, the (terrorist) organisation dreamt of extending their tentacles towards creating an Islamic regime and power. Unsatisfied with the interventionist foreign policy of the USA and its support for Israel, Al-Qaeda began their violent atrocities. As a counterterrorism strategy began its infamous war on terror. Now, the organisation has extended its branches to Southern India, posing a threat to human life and property.

The 26th report on the Analytical Support and the Sanction Monitoring Team of the UN reported that the Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent operates under the Taliban. The whole operation is conducted from Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan. The report mentioned a significant proliferation in the number of terrorists operating in southern states of India, especially in Kerala and Karnataka.

Representational image of ISIS members. Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express

The current leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is Osama Mahmood, who succeeded Asim Umar. Last year in May 2019, the Islamic State Terror Group also claimed to establish a “province” in India and claimed it to be unique. There are certain reasons behind such a move towards India — first is the oppressive policies of the Indian government towards Kashmiri Muslims; second is its support for the secular ideologies in Bangladesh; third is its alliance with the US, Russia and Israel, all these countries that are considered by them to be responsible for suppressing the Jihadist movement in the region; fourth is India withholding water from Bangladesh, a move to assert dominance over Muslims of West Bengal; and finally, it is India’s selective reading of history, which points to the presence of Muslim rulers in India for almost a millennium, giving the organisation confidence to repossess it again.

However, India’s involvement with Afghanistan not being a reason for their encroachment in the territory shows reluctance to encroach the Taliban territory. The NIA, earlier in July 2020, also filed a charge sheet against the 17 accused of the Bengaluru ISIS module case. The NIA report said that the accused were part of an organisation named ‘Al Hind’, which was planning to execute a terror strike in South India. Al Hind was founded in 2019 in the house-cum-office of one of the accused named Mehboob Pasha with the objective of establishing an Islamic Khilafat in India.

India ranked seventh in the Global Terrorism Index of 2019. There are various scenarios in which the security of the subcontinent can be threatened by terrorist activities. In the first instance, the ISIS might launch a frontal attack targeted towards the Indian State in the same way it has done against Syria and Iraq. However, minimum probability is often ascribed to this instance. This Arab group doesn’t consider Indian Islam to be nearer to the teachings of the Quran. It also considers it corrupt. If it attacks India, it will get minimum support on the ground that can stop it to achieve its goal. Commentators are also aware that the likelihood of such a full wage attack is less since the Pakistan Army would not allow other groups to gain hegemony.

Representational image

In the second instance, greater internet connectivity, part and parcel of globalisation, can help radical groups such as the ISIS to recruit Indians to spread terror in India and in other places around the world. Cheap internet connectivity means that a greater number of people are joining digital citizenship. It is becoming more difficult to decipher who spreads hatred and recruits young minds that can easily succumb to such propaganda.

The third and most worrying instance is that terror groups such as the ISIS can act as a significant source of inspiration for any local terror groups that threaten the internal security of the country. These groups can also align their activities to that of the ISIS without even being aware of its ideology. The dismantling of the Indian Mujahideen left many radical groups stranded without the leadership of an organisation. The ISIS can very well fill this gap for these extremist’s leadership.

As a response, the Indian government must churn out policies to stop the discrimination faced by the Muslim community in the Indian society. Ongoing alienation can be a catalyst to push Muslim youth to take up arms against the Indian state which can jeopardise the entire internal security, concerning the loss of life and livelihood along with the destruction of property.

Building a pluralistic society based on representation, equity and power sharing can lessen the rise of potential threats. The biggest threat still comes from the assistance of Pakistani Armies to the local insurgents in the Kashmir Region, but the recent UN report that highlighted the proliferation in the number of terrorists is a cause of concern for India.

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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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