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Locking Horns To Defy The Fascists, I Think Arundhati Roy Is A Revolution

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Sometimes, amidst the humdrum of existential dystopic situations of humans, to wonder if humanity was indeed really rigidly and radically just, moral, cherubic, free from misery or rather as utopian as what the Bible, Great Gospels, Pope’s, Tsar’s and Mighty empires of the world thump their chest to a pulp while speaking of it and calming their disquieting truth.

What if no supremacy, no subjugation, no inequality existed? What if supremacy was itself a question that was better left unanswered. Lenin would’ve exiled himself to an asylum on the grounds of blasphemous and ridiculous revolutionary talks in an already “Marxist” world, what Marx the bearded, hard-mouthed wine connoisseur liked to calls it.

Arundhati Roy.

Writers, lawyers, activists, artists and possible progressives would very well go out of jobs. Nevertheless, this lovingly scrumptious thought would be a swooning farce fantasy of an elementary kid or a dying veteran, perhaps. While we come to terms with the utterly putrid reality at hand and stare into the tinder box of the grieving world, we also needn’t be turvy or be extremely dreaded by the ever precarious and, or the possibly treacherously organic question: “What’s going on?”

One of the few writer-cum-humans to ever admittedly not only answer this question but to write it boldly and trumpet it into the ears of this oxymoron world, against the stream of raging, graze like and dominant pattern of thought, is the ever celebrated and acclaimed booker prize awardee writer, Arundhati Roy.

Right-wing fanatics, their fascist cohorts, the Indian state and middle-aged men hate her equally proportional to the level of my admiration for her and everything she has to say. It almost feels like yesterday when the delusional Republic of India seemed to be in the best of light and fervency.

Then came in the brimming smell of the coffee that “woke up”, not all, but some like Roy, to name a few, who’ve vehemently expressed their gratitude through their work towards the brimming coffee of realisation, which helped a lot of people alike to indeed “smell the coffee” while the masses are still in the “chai delusion”. Metaphor intended.

In one of Roy’s quotes from her essay War Talk, out of utmost bliss and in an optimistic figure of expression, she writes: “Another world is not only possible, but she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.”

It subjectively to many seemed and felt like a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel, like a gush of wind on a hot day, like a silent pat on the back that somehow assures God has different plans, which perhaps blasphemously is true in respect to the abstract entity upon whom the world singularly relies on for all “godly” and “worldly” matters. The distinction gets bleak day by day.

Roy has always been a vehement dissident against the siege of neoliberalism globally and in India, environmental wreckage and abysmal scrutiny and responsibility towards it by the world that it entails. With it, she has an ardent stand against the nuclear power hegemony and bullying by the United States, the shallowness of the capitalist post-industrialisation siege on the world, the excruciating imperial wars waged by the United States to topple democratically elected socialist regimes in Middle Eastern Countries, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

And till hook about the whole of these collective series of Imperialist, Oppressive, Hegemonic and Free-market world glasnost and perestroika frenzy that has taken over by hook and mostly by crook for the sole leeching benefit of the neo-colonial and imperialist Europe and the United States.

Roy has always maintained an anti-war stance.

Roy has always maintained an anti-war stance when it comes to the Indo-Pak squabble, Newsroom gaslighting and warmongering over Kashmir or the Imperialist conduct and hegemonic bullying by the U.S. in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Yemen, namely in the vast array of countries tormented and wrecked since ages for capitalist gains on wars, regimes and resources.

Roy’s opponents and critics simply can’t heckle her away with any other defence other than calling her a “peace-loving hobo”, or “left-liberal” barring the other few grotesque labels. The irony lies in the fact that being called peace-loving and a free-thinker is now derogatory in the land of Gandhi, in the world’s largest democracy.

Roy is at fault because she chose to speak her mind in a nation with swelling patriarchy as the rule of culture. In a county where the masses are either sugar-coated with cretinism or are feverishly hot and pulping with nationalism and fragile egos that laced with bigotry, the malice of hate, farcical supremacy, deep ridden structural divide on ascribed lines and a scrumptious tendency to always swarm impositions.

Jammu & Kashmir is one issue on which Roy has always taken an ardent stand and has an opinion string that is very contrasting and uniquely antithetical to the Majoritarian mass-produced and shared public opinion. She openly advocates for the self-determination and dignity of the valley and valley folks of the former earnest princely state, which was also very strangely promised a plebiscite after its induction to the Indian republic.

Nevertheless, her opinions and words garner controversies and fallacies faster than the blink of an eye. Time and again, hounding opinion leaders, political pawns and the regimes have always kept a close shrewd ear and have kept the intolerance dear.

As a result, after a statement of Roy’s about Kashmir at a seminar in 2010, the UPA regime and almost all of the political apparatus went ballistic on her. They gifted her sedition with regards because very agreeably how dare she utter her mind in a free democratic country that itself was under the same subjugation it now unleashes on itself, or the country who’s existence stems from the result of consistent resistance, dissent, movements and by all means free will.

How is this the “single biggest internal security threat”, she wondered.

To top up the further feather ruffle of the Indian State, Roy, in pursuit of her book Walking With The Comrades, embarks into the Maoist stronghold of the country, in the deep jungles of Chhattisgarh, piercing into the grips of the Dandakaranya Forest of the Bastar Region to gain access into the lives of the Tribals and the Inhabitants of Chattisgarh, while to also explore lives of the Maoist guerrillas who’ve taken up arms against the Indian state.

How is this the “single biggest internal security threat”, she wondered. When a Democratic country openly declares war on its own people, what does that war look like? What do you call it?

Roy, in her book, described how she met and interacted with the “biggest internal threat” in the country and how this threat came in and first met her as a frail teenage boy called Mangtu with a jute backpack who then accompanied her into the woods of Dandakaranya. The antagonists in the forest seemed utmostly destitute, oppressed, disparate and miserably unequal in almost every way.

On the other hand, the other supposed protagonist lies with a massive paramilitary armed with capital, arsenal and media firepower. The position of the latter seemed sinisterly debatable. In her essay, she also states that the history of resistance in tribal belts is age-old and predates Mao and Maoism or even the idea of modern politics. However, the tribal resistance then and now differs only on one ground, that is vilification.

One thought that arises when we bring the picture of the most destitute people in this country is that if an Adivasi who’s faced tremendous oppression since bygone times from autocratic and feudal forces, now in a Democratic setting in exchange for the mere right to vote for or choose their oppressor rather than to have the oppressor forced onto themselves, get stripped off the right to own land, own a house, practice livelihood and get alienated completely from their basic right to Jal Jangal Zameen and dignified life while the rest of the country indulges in the discourse of being a “Superpower”.

What does one expect when they get their land, forests and livelihood taken away, villages surrounded by 800 to 1,000 CRPF and CISF soldiers, and their villages being burnt to the ground in order to pave the way to set up big corporates and industries for a few spilling bellies; only for the displaced to either migrate to cities and live in further worse conditions or to stay displaced and fend off the pieces.

Does one expect the already starved to perform a hunger strike, or do we expect them to stage a non-violent protest while they’re about to be gunned down because they love their homes and their centuries-old inhabitance?

Non-violence seems like good political theatre only when there’s an audience or if you live in a 21st century metropolitan with time for conscience as spare. Violence ensues destruction undeniably, but can there be a comparison to the violence of the oppressor and the violence of utterly oppressed in this respect? The answer flows in the air, perhaps.

Her critics label her as a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? She indelibly supports the resistance of the oppressed but not the ideology. If supporting and voicing the most miserable, most unequally inhabited, shunned and grossly oppressed people in the country is treacherous and is deemed seditious in a democratic nation that preaches equality and idealism.

In a country with a vast history of revolutionaries and leaders such as Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Shaheed Sukhdev, Shaheed Raj Guru, BR Ambedkar and others throughout who dreamt and fought for a country bereft of inequality and misery, towards a socialist reconstruction of the society.

Arundhati Roy
The regime in cahoots with big corporate and its parent fascist organisation RSS has unbridled all its force and determination to sabotage and destroy all basic food for secular fabric.

Perhaps, it now lies clear that indeed there is something very defunct in the protagonist’s view we put faith in. It’s time we introspect.

In times when Extremist Hindutva Fascism looms and gnaws large over the Indian Subcontinent ever since the Hindutva populist regime of the BJP came to power. The regime in cahoots with big corporate and its parent fascist organisation RSS has unbridled all its force and determination to sabotage and destroy all basic food for secular fabric that was left, and then replace it with a naive and communal saffron shade of hate, bigotry and inequality.

When the idea of a better India remains ever precarious amid deep fascist frenzy and subjugation, people who lock horns and defy the fascists in broad light and fervency of resistance in the face of majoritarian assault, through collective public action or individual works of resistance; express and communicate to the masses, the one thing that gets any fascist, tyrant and oppressor petrified with fear, and that is the possibility of change.

Throughout history, writings of revolutionary hope and possibility have time and again empowered the masses. It supplements the society to strive and struggle towards emancipation from misery and strengthens their resolve to uproot all forms of oppression and beleaguering at the hands of fascists and all oppressors.

In the fading humdrum of intolerant humming, yells and majoritarian criticism, I find Arundhati Roy to be an ideology in herself. She is not locked to the ball and chain of the sinister ostrich society. She speaks the language of what’s hidden in each person who has a name, a heart. She speaks the language of the deep, abysmally stuffed and beaten conscience that succumbs to a slow death each day, each time we find it easier to dig our heads into the sand.

Arundhati Roy is a revolution.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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