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D For Dictatorship, C For Casteism: Democracy Redefined In Today’s India

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Democracy, (at least) in books, means “power of the people”.New India has a new meaning for democracy. However, this new democracy treats everyone differently.

Therefore, if you speak in support of the Government, congratulations! You are safe. Moreover, if you are a VIP, you may even get security which is provided to high-risk individuals by the government. This category of citizens is free to speak and do whatever they want, so to speak. Their lives (votes) matter.

Let’s talk about another category of citizens in New India. Beware of what you speak, what you do. Your one word against the government can turn your life upside down or even take your life. You say a word and hundreds of thousands of people are waiting to call you”Terrorists, Khalistanis, Tukde-Tukde gang” etc. Unfortunately, this category is not safe.

Let’s comprehend the new meaning of Democracy:

D=Dictatorship

We all know the dictator of our country whether we want to acknowledge it or not. This authoritarian leader of our country is fond of forming new laws without consulting the people whom the new laws are going to affect.

From the implementation of Demonetisation, GST, Reading down of Article 370, CAA-NRC, the sudden lockdown, new three farm laws and the rush to construct Ram Mandir and the Parliament House while economy continuously going down due to the pandemic, the leader takes decisions and citizens are expected to follow them blindly.

E=Economy

The pandemic is not the sole reason for crashing down of the economy. The economy had already been weakened by years of mismanagement. Now that India is back on track, the government really need to focus on its unemployment.

Representational image.

M= Mob Lynching

We have many Deshbhakts. One of them is a bizarre politician who always comes up with his bizarre ideas. Recently, CM Yogi Adityanath of UP introduced Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance of 2020, or say the “Love Jihad” law. It is being employed as a tool to punish Muslim Men. In a male-dominated society like ours, where women still live under precarious restrictions where women every single day face harassment, domestic violence, deal with sexist comments and many other things. This law is one more attack on them.

India is a country where women are taught to be voiceless and to tolerate everything silently. Now they will have to take government permission as well that who can they marry and who they can not.

There are also self-styled protectors of Hinduism. They roam freely, harass people for their religion and it’s not even a big deal. These protectors will either ask you to chant “Jai Shree Ram”  or lose your life. This is how minorities are being treated in New India.

O= Objection

Again, what’s that? Our government could afford to miss Parliament Session to control Corona Virus but couldn’t do the same during the rallies of Bihar elections. Basically, we are living in the country to follow the orders and we have no right to question the government.

C= Casteism

Aaj-kal chhua-chhut jaisa kuch nahi hota(casteism doesn’t exist today)”. We can easily find so many people saying so. But the reality is far different. Caste-based discrimination is not only a part of history. It still happens in India. Every day. Some recent cases of caste-based discrimination in India that did not catch enough attention are:

1. Dalit Grooms are still not allowed to ride horses in the areas of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana because it is still considered a practice to be reserved for the upper caste men.

2.Dalits in UP’s Bundelkhand are not allowed to touch water and tankers servicing upper caste. Following the water scarcity in the area, Dalits in the village have to walk 7-8 kms to fetch water from a hand pump installed in the Dalit area as their touch pollutes the tanker for the upper caste.

R=Rape

Recently, a 50-year-old Anganwadi worker was allegedly gang-raped in a temple in Badaun of Uttar Pradesh. Rapes in India have become so normal that this news was not startling. The startling thing was the statement given by the member of the National Commission for Women who went to meet the family members of the Badaun gangrape victim.

Speaking to the reporters, she said, “If the victim had not gone out alone in the evening or gone with a family member, she could have been saved.”

A few days ago, in the hearing of farmers protest, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde asked why women had been kept in the farmer’s protest; they should be sent home and hence kept out of the protests.

A=Assault

Though the Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, the question is do we really have the right? It has been exactly 24 days since stand up comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested in MP when he was doing his show. Faruqui, along with 4 others were arrested on charges of passing indecent remarks against Hindu deities and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a show in Indore. Police haven’t found any concrete evidence against him but he is still in jail for a joke he did not crack.

C= Corruption

Corruption, corruption and corruption. India has the highest bribery rate in Asia according to the Global Barometer published by Transparency International. However, we have the most corrupt politicians who came to power and make promises to make India corruption free.

Y= Yellow Journalism

Exaggerate the facts and gain TRP. This is how journalism works today. It would not be wrong on our part if we start calling news channels as “noise”.

Our Democracy is in danger. We should be worried about our democracy instead of the USA’s democracy.

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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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