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1975 To 2021: Is History Repeating Itself?

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Both Indira and Modi, known for their flamboyance and audacity had been perceived as a godly figure by their respective party members. “My way or the high way” is the tagline that describes them precisely. Indira banning RSS during the emergency and BJP’s “congress mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)” says everything for the utter disregard they have for the opposition.

Though Gandhi was totally secular which may not be the case with Modi, there are striking similarities between the Indira era that people saw and the Modi era that the people are witnessing.

Popular Support

In the 5th Lok Sabha General Elections held in 1971, Indira Gandhi won by a landslide victory thanks to the “Garibi Hatao (remove poverty)” campaign. Indian national Congress won over 43 % of the total seats. In 2014, riding on the Modi-wave, the NDA won over 38% of the total votes from the Government with the BJP vote share being 31%.

Indira and Modi managed to win general elections for their respective party comprehensively. It would not be wrong to say that both these leaders possess charismatic personalities to inspire devotion among the masses.

Indira Gandhi And Narendra Modi both share the similarities of being popular and charismatic leaders.

In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared an emergency that lasted for 21 months. Most of Gandhi’s opponents were imprisoned, one of them was veteran BJP leader LK Advani. Later Mr. Advani said to the media “You were asked only to bend, but you crawled”.

The Modi Government abrogated Article 370 and put Kashmir under lockdown with key Kashmir political leaders such as Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, under arrest or detention. Several intellectuals also criticize many Indian media houses for being a minion to the central government and are popularly called “godi media”.

The State Of  The Indian Press

 “Under Modi, India’s press is not so free anymore” read an article in The New York Times alleging the Indian Government of pressurizing advertisers and shut down channels to distort the information received by 130 crore people of the country. Many media houses have been pressurized to fire journalists criticizing Prime Minister Modi.

Even cynical journalists are reluctant to say anything about Mr. Modi, afraid of being labeled as anti-national in a country where patriotism is equated with support for Mr. Modi. A BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra even called Modi “the father of the nation” in a heated debate on an Indian News Channel reminding us of the 1975 Emergency when the then Congress President DK Barooah known for his sycophancy to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared “India is Indira, and Indira is India”.

The Indira Government also told journalists across the country to follow certain guidelines. Some were threatened to be fired and some were put in jail. Prior permission was made necessary for all the newspapers before publishing any piece by the Chief Press Advisor, a position created to censor the news.

The Condition Of The Judiciary

When Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, Justice AN Ray went on to become the Chief Justice of India most controversially in 1973 superseding three senior judges of the Supreme Court, JM Shelat, AN Grover, and KS Hegde. It was observed as a black day in Indian democracy and as a direct attack on Judiciary. Justice Md Hidyatullah termed it as an attempt to lure judges to look forward to constitutional positions under the Government.

this was an attempt of not creating ‘forward-looking judges’ but the ‘judges looking forward’ to the plumes of the office of Chief Justice


Recently, Justice Arun Mishra while addressing an International Conference organized by the Supreme Court in New Delhi, expressed his admiration for PM Modi and termed him as a “versatile genius”.

India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. We thank the versatile genius who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for his inspiring speech which will act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations and setting the agenda for the conference.”


The controversial nomination of Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha drawn heavy criticism from ex-judges and also from a section of the political class. The former chief justice of the Delhi High Court remarked that this judge (Justice Gogoi) has destroyed the independence of the judiciary.

It sends out the message that if a judge gives ruling in favour of the executive, he/she will be rewarded. “


Also, the former SC judge Kurian Joseph alleged that the former CJI had compromised the noble principles on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Similarities In Legislation

Both Gandhi and Modi enacted controversial laws. The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971 armed Indira Gandhi and Indian law enforcement agencies with very broad powers such as indefinite preventive detention of individuals, search and seizure of property without warrants, and wiretapping. The two laws enacted by the Modi Government, known as NRC or National Register of Citizens and CAA or the Citizenship Amendment Act that would provide a way to acquire citizenship to several minority groups and foreigners in India but not Muslims. These laws were even termed as “fundamentally discriminatory” by the United Nations.

Newspaper stills from both eras.

Both Indira and Modi chose yielding leaders as President such as Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed who stood beside Gandhi while enforcing the infamous emergency of 1975 and also Modi placing BJP loyalists as President and vice president. With similar story-lines in the 1970’s Indira era and the post-2014 Modi era, there’s no doubt that the way of administration of both Modi and Gandhi had been similar in many aspects.

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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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