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“People Shy Away From Raising Voices”: India, A Trapped Republic

The soulful voices of “Jana Gana Mana” is being heard. The Tricolor is fluttering in the sky. Patriotic songs are being played at various places around the city. A sense of patriotism is in the air. Children with blooming faces are headed toward school getting excited to see cultural activities and the joy of having sweets.

The Republic And Justice

Every time I hear the word ‘REPUBLIC‘, two things cross my mind – ‘Republic Day‘ and ‘The Republic‘ by Plato. The latter one starts with a chapter in which Socrates is conversing with his pupils – Cephalus, Polemarcheus, Thrasymachus, and others and asks them to define Justice. Justice seems to be a foreign word in the current scenario.

Thrasymachus says,” I proclaim that might is right and justice is the interest of the stronger.” He argues that different forms of government make laws intending to serve their respective interest. Whatever serves their interests, is eulogized as ‘Justice‘; anything that hinders is condemned as ‘injustice‘. Socrates does not accept the stand taken by Thrasymachus, neither would anyone else in the modern era. But does it resemble the current scenarios of some nations? I will leave that question to you, reader!

farmers protest

The Farmers protests have been going on for two months without any resolution from the government.

This 26th January marks the 72nd anniversary of our constitution coming into effect. A Constitution is considered to be the core strength of any democracy. On this day, the Republic Day Parade majestically takes place. But this year it will be different as we are going through the global pandemic this time. Reduced spectator size, the size of marching contingents, and tableaux will be there. This will be held under the shadow of massive farmer’s agitations against the three farm laws demanding the center to repeal them.

It has been almost 2 months since the farmers of our agrarian economy are protesting out in the sheer cold. After 12 rounds of conversations between Farmer’s Unions and the Central government, there is no result. Their concerns of agriculture getting privatized that may lead to serious exploitation of farmers ( especially small and marginal farmers) and the danger of upcoming monopoly in the agricultural sector haven’t been answered yet.

Underemployment and lesser commercialization in the agricultural sector are the areas where we need to improve. But Government has been unable to find the golden mean. 100+ farmers have succumbed to suicides and cold weather. Will they get their due justice?

Justice- whenever I hear this word, a spontaneous smile comes on my face. It has been a year since JNU violence and the Delhi riots but the real culprits getting their due punishment is farther than it appears. Protests have become crimes. Social activists, student leaders, poets, artists, and journalists getting charged under UAPA has become the new normal.

83-year-old Varavara Rao, Stan Swamy, Sudha Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, and Umar Khalid are in jail but what happens to people giving hate speeches instigating people, why does the story of Gopal holding a gun subside?

Corporate Media Creating Divisions

Constitution’s preamble promises to secure the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship. We are in an inexplicable time where that promise and Love Jihad laws co-exist. Since the last few years, apparent societal interaction has increased a lot because of several reasons, one can say social media.

Umar Khalid and other student leaders and intellectuals were arrested simply for dissenting.

Hateful speeches, Divisive propaganda in name of religion and caste, fake news, and rumors spreading through social media have made people instinctive and outrageous. Sold out corporate media is running away from its responsibilities and further selling its propaganda to the audiences. Why does the story of China crossing borders fade? Why do the migrants have to answer instead of govt?

This recalls an incident. Last year on February 20, a young girl from Bangalore, Amulya Leona Noronha shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” on a stage, where a protest was going on against CAA( Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019). All the men on the stage there got alarmed and tried to prevent her speak any other word & her “Hindustan Zindabad” got lost in the chaos out there.

In no time she was arrested and police booked her for sedition. Immediately on TV and social media, she got labeled as “Anti-National“. On 16th February 2020, she had tweeted in Kanadda that translates to “Whatever country you may belong to, may your country live long, Hindustan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad, Bangladesh Zindabad, Srilanka Zindabad, Nepal Zindabad, Afghanistan Zindabad, China Zindabad, and Bhutan Zindabad.

What seems scarier than this instinctive system decision was gathering of a mob outside her house and throwing stones at the house. In the mob’s presence, her father said, “what she said is wrong. She was joined by some Muslims & was not listening to me.

Is Mob Justice A New Feature Of The Indian Republic?

Mob justice is what we hear regularly and has become a part of our republic. People cheering for encounters show a huge amount of growing disbelief in the justice system. Some stories remain unheard despite being heard. The case of police brutality and custodial deaths of Jayaraj and his son Fenix in Tamil Nadu was such a case. How George Floyd’s became a movement in the U.S, here it just faded away. People shy away from raising voices.

“I understand in this situation how hard it is for a man to win his freedom in India, Later I came to realize, why? the greatest thing to come out of this country in its 10000 years of history is the rooster coop…They can see and smell the blood, they know they are the next yet they don’t rebel. They don’t try and get out of the coop.”
– ‘White Tiger’ By Aravind Adiga.

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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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