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India 2.0? Where WhatsApp University Is A Credible Source, Mythology Is Science

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The state of the nation is such that we have devolved from ‘for, of, by the people’ towards ‘far, off, buy the people’, and it’s mandated to make us accept it in a way that little do we realize whose republic India is? On 26th January 1950, India gave herself a constitution, a document; a social contract, that should protect the citizens from the statism of government. But, constitutionally speaking, today, do citizens fear the government or the government fears the citizens?

On the eve of India celebrating 72nd Republic Day (2021), amidst the pandemic, it’s however ‘not too late’ to reflect and introspect upon our conspicuous display of celebration, state of the economy, governance and other ideal civilities. India is a republic nation. The idea of res publica is to have a form of government in which elected representatives practice democratic powers in a constitutional manner.

If India were not a republic, she would have seen today’s “new India” back in 1950 already. Then, the important question is how did we reach here, why, and what have we become?

The cultural design of the republic is to sustain the ‘public sphere’ rather than treat a nation as the private property of few individuals. The powers enshrined upon the government are constitutionally limited so that citizens can breathe well than blindly obey the state.

Scientific temperament, critical consciousness and questioning attitude are very essential to upgrade the health of democracy but unfortunately, the recent trends suggest that the idea of a republic is merely an abstract on the original document (Indian constitution) architected by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar!

India’s republic is witnessing a grand fall in free speech (142/190 nations – 2020, against 134/190 nations – 2014) and an upward trend (of about 165% with just 3% conviction rate) in sedition cases (2019). It seems that it’s wrong to be a republican if the state of affairs is in dismalness of ‘republic’.

India’s republic has been modified in a way that questioning the government looks ‘anti-national’. There’s a systematic scheme of restructuring the soul of the public sphere. The whole fabric is tailored to suit the panoptic goals of few authoritarians. Nevertheless, India is consciously entering the gates of Potemkin democracy while dropping down to 102/117 nations on hunger index.

This is a great setback due to constitutional repub-leak?

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, on November 25, 1949, warning in his last speech to the constituent assembly, spoke of the need to give up the grammar of anarchy, to avoid hero-worship, and to work towards a social – not just a political – democracy. His anticipation is turning true, today, sadly.

He said, “Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.

On the 26th of January 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lose it again? This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.”

Taking a cue at how a supreme leader is worshipped at the cost of ‘republic’, who unfortunately holds zero press conference, Ambedkar anticipated Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

Representational image.

The Republic of India is manufacturing a ‘concept’ that will beget the current and upcoming generation to worship Manusmriti over India’s constitution.

Is history repeating itself? It was Swami Karpatri and Hindu Sabha who horrendously expressed their disgruntlement at the constitutional process in the late 1940s. Contemporarily, few fringe elements are establishing themselves as the ‘deep state’ to channelize the conventional tenets of a ‘Hindu rashtra’ than that of a secular, tolerant, democratic and liberal India. The narratives and interactions are simply amended, verily through the selective power of 4th pillar (Media), while the other three pillars are mere spectators-cum-facilitators.

Like never before, WhatsApp university is a credible source, fake news is a qualification, hate speech is ‘new’ free speech, interfaith marriage is love jihad, unaccountability is transparency, history is fake, mythology is science, and coercion is consent. One side of the community has to prove its nationalism along with ‘kaagaz’, and the other community is programmed only for manual scavenging, while the 33 crore Gods enjoyed the ‘bhoomi poojan’ on August 5, 2020, breaching the basic structure of constitution.

Indian constitution was founded with an intent to make India’s democracy ‘functional’. The recent farmers protest over the ‘new’ farm bill is an ongoing case study to examine how people’s consent or farmers’ consultation does not matter. The ‘new’ republic of India is now willing to transcend and supersede any heights to transform the re-public state into the re-private state. In this re-private state, crony capitalism and denationalization would sleep with each other.

And, in this consciousness, the nexus of media, government and business houses working together would simply mean that ‘brahminism’ inherently prevails over the life, liberty, dignity and consent of the ‘shudras’ (working class)…and any act of disobedience would beget ‘untouchability’ of the dissidents through sedition charges, lynching, UAPA, defamation, trolling and threats, leaving no room for any August Landmesser moment.

Ratiocinating this so-called cynical piece with a factual ode:

Stand up, and all hail the git,

Censor this and that and every wit,

Bid a farewell to democracy using rit,

Dump down that constitution in a pit,

For it provokes dissidents to never sit,

This new India will have its own kit,

That will lynch, beat and lit,

Whatever the supreme says is never a nit,

Obey and follow, dear cit.

This article was first published in The Leaflet.
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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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