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Opinion: The Dystopic, Contradictory Reality Of India

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“India lives in several centuries at the same time. Every night outside my house, I pass a road gang of emaciated labourers digging a trench to lay fibre-optic cables to speed up the digital revolution. They work by the light of a few candles.” – Arundhati Roy

India is a living contradiction in itself, almost everything little to enormous is surrounded by contradictions. While these brazen contradictions may not be visible or at all be made visible to the naked pacified eye, rather if one looks closely, they are bound to stumble upon this pandora box of “have not” contradictions and “have’s” contradictions.

To stalk up the bamboo, “have not” contradictions could perhaps be the existence of nationalistic culture fuelled and driven debate on the preservation of culture feud against western winds and western soft power and culture while also on the same end adopting everything that has “Uncle Sam” written on it in a jiffy per see. OR the dreamy flaring wish of women upliftment and empowerment against an unquestioned historically rigid setting that is brazenly misrepresentational, dogmatic, biased and which terribly reeks of historically preserved patriarchy.

india freedom
Representational image.

Under the “have” contradictions banner,  perhaps the utopic dream of glittering smart metropolitans, superpower talks, lavish lifestyles, keto diets, shimmering lives studded with branded shiny materialist artefacts that trumpet 21st-century whims and dreams and on the other side people in clusters living in shanties, in congested surroundings, with growling stomachs and teary lives, bleakly distant from the 21st-century development discourse, it very well at the same time reminisces one of a very dystopic reality of India on the contrary.

Another paradigm to this is the existentialism of SC/ST/OBC Acts and legislations in the Indian Constitution that holds high regard in the subcontinent, and the whole trumpeted portend of this supposed bygone antic oppressive caste frenzy towards lower castes, Dalits and Adivasis, that according to the state and the general dictating discourse, is persistent no more or reigns in pockets, fringes and fades of the tricolour republic.

While on the rather ironic contrast, every day cataclysmic atrocities and caste fuelled crimes, subjugations which fall out symbolically, practically and or in forms of shrouded caste prejudices in every day walks of life are reported throughout the same tricolour republic by and by also, where manual scavenging which is unarguably the most degrading form of labor, still persists at large and has been adamantly deemed to be done coercively or rather systematically in accordance to the traditional caste hierarchy by people belonging to the lower castes, tribal and the dalit strata according to every fact and figure, not subjectivity.

These contradictions expound upon a few contrasts out of their million other siblings, and how their incorporation into the Indian discourse of “everydayization” that is now surrounded by contradictions of all shapes and sizes that antagonistically mirror each other and perform a deadly dance every ticking strike, yet they are somewhat spared off or brushed from any discussion and solid final resolutions of these contradictions.

However, these contradictions are sadistically and sinisterly crucial to maintain for the idiomatic and selective democracy, democratic apparatus, opportunist apostles, and the privileged more equal than others part bourgeois faction of the tricolour republic and preserved at all costs to keep up with the non vilified way of leaching benefit at the cost of anything and everything from the already existing abysmal caste, class hierarchies and the prejudicial foul air of the silent non vilified supremacist outlook and above all project a very cherubic face of the reeking status quo.

The opium of complacency administered to the oppressed and the common will further only beget much deep and more rooted oppression antics and freedom for the whole state machinery that pillars this oppression in exchange for the opium of betterment, progress, governance, and development. Abracadabra!

Democracy and freedom in status quo ante since independence and the existing status quo has always been limited to petty puppetry of various bourgeois shades of political apostles and their mutt acolytes and the race to the best oppressive incumbent trophy through political balcony tickets called “voting”.

What is democracy in its true sense? Is it limited to electing partisan apostles or is it limited to discussion after discussion or is it limited to the freedom to selective expression and selective speech?

Democracy has been hollowed out and used up until its entirety. This machine has started to consume itself. Its cogs now lie defunct, rusted and old. The regime, The State or as a matter of fact the political apparatus wouldn’t dare even in their wildest dreams to oil its cogs, for they are aware of their grim portending fear that oiling this machinery will beget a revolution. The oiling will beget a realization of oppression to the oppressed and soon the opium will wear off.

However more strenuously than ever, the idea of India lies evermore at a very dangerous and bleak turn while in this humdrum of political opinions we witness that cataclysm of fascist and right-wing offensive forces now run an insatiable frenzy at present, that vehemently and clearly more than ever assures one thing and that is an escalation of already abysmal conditions of what little food for democracy that is left and for anyone or as a matter fact any entity that upholds the so-called constitutional and humanitarian grounds that now is found not be seen in this cacophony of who is right and who is not so right.

Jails and the judiciary except a few red moon times are antics of the ruling partisan muzzling and string-pulling. The strings often always tangle those braving ones who see these strings and who dare not to “strike a chord” with them. The monopolization of violence, muzzling of opinion heterogeneity and annihilation with the state and the executive, while the whole arms firepower with the police and the military brazenly legitimizes any and every form of violence apropos to supposedly avoid lawlessness in the garb of enforcing the interests of a few conglomerates and with all due faith the Indian State.

Representational image.

State violence and incarceration are selective and for the most part is unleashed only on the poor, the powerless, the destitute barring a few halo instances, while the rhetoric for non-violence and dialogue resolution remains for the powerful and the spilling rich.

A status quo that is ugly enough to call landless peasants farming on a piece of land to sustain their growling bellies as encroachers and parasites after bulldozing their crops, their shanties to the ground, executing them as “Maoists” if they resist after losing everything except their skin and bone,  while on their other grotesquely iniquitous end calling land mafias, builders, corporates, industrialists who ransack entire villages and communities, burn houses to the ground are trumpeted as developers of modern India who use the Indian State muscle to maim tribes, inhabitants and displace them to fend on bits and pieces in a country which calls itself Independent and democratic.

The Media Firepower plays a vehement role in capturing the very mind and conscience, the media is the silent collaborator in preserving the bourgeois state of affairs and psychologically painting images, stigmas, stereotypes and ideas of what is sedulous and what is treacherously lethal. Manufacturing opinions in boxes with stamps of the state is the best way to deceive a whole country into thinking everything is virtuous and smooth without calling it propaganda per se is a few of perks that come with this model of democratic governance.

This abridged form of democracy in highly neoliberal and a hyper-capitalist gradient and its result calls for what Lenin postulates in The State and The Revolution about free-market capitalist democracies that “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.” which by and large cannot be easily put aside in a toss when the realization of the same has pierced one’s own mind and the class conscience while vehemently demanding dignity on the virtue of being free in society at large.

It’s imperative for not just the intelligentsia but for everybody to bring the “why is everything the way it is?” question into the mainstream discourse rather than being complacent to every whim of the state.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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, 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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