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Opinion: Is There A ‘Pattern’ In How The Indian Government Handles Dissent?


The farmers protesting against the farm bills is now a well-noticed affair. Indeed, this is among the many widespread demonstrations against laws in India seen in recent times; some or other section of the country is always on the streets. Protests and demonstrations are a method of registering discomfort or disagreement on any issue, which would always contribute to the strengthening of democracy.

What we are talking about is how the government treats these protests as mere opposition and manages to pass the laws despite, and in most cases, amidst the protests.

If I can write effectively tonight, you will be seeing the” pattern” I see.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – 2021/01/26: Farmers’ Tractors Parade seen heading towards the Red Fort during the demonstration. Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana state continue to protest against the central government’s new agricultural Laws. Delhi Police gave permission to protesting farmers’ tractor parade on Republic Day. The parade started from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders points. (Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Farm Laws, 2020

India is witnessing a massive agitation since the last 90 days, against three farm bills (now laws) passed in spite of criticism. Read through my post on farm laws for a detailed discussion.

Reception of the Bill

Although there have been amendments to the bills since their enactment, they have failed to satisfy the demonstrators who emphasise an absolute repeal of the bills. The government has held 11 rounds of discussions with the protestors, the last being on 22nd January. It’s been over a month since the last talk round and the government seems to have moved on and over the demonstrations; they have stopped reacting.

They resort to discrediting the movement, namecalling the protestors( terrorists, anti-nationals, separatists, etc), cease internet in the demonstration site, dig pits and nails on the way to the demonstration, deploying huge defence forces around the demonstration area.

Anti-CAA protest
The recent attacks on students during the CAA-NRC protests have alienated a significant portion of the vote bank for BJP.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

CAA gives eligibility for Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians( excluding Muslims) from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who reached India before 2015.

Reception of the Bill

Widespread protests and demonstrations expanding months were observed against it calling out the discrimination against Muslims. CAA ignores persecuted minorities from other regions such as Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar as well as Hazaras, Ahmadis, atheists, and political dissenters, who face persecution in Pakistan which was also a cause of scrutiny. This act is the first instance of religion being used as a criterion for Indian citizenship.

The government resorted to discrediting the protestors and labelling them anti-national and terrorists. It later slowed down the internet speed, finally turning a blind eye. Yes, similar pattern.

My dreamy head is hovering what the enactment of CAA with the other two proposed citizenship registration bills (NPR and NRC) would result into, but let’s keep it for another post and concentrate on the subject of how the government handles dissent.

Jammu And Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019

This bill has two parts-

Reorganization bill(2019) that splits the state into two union territories-one comprising Jammu and Kashmir, the other Ladakh( earlier a part of Jammu). While both of them will now be put directly under the Central Government of India, UT of J&K will have an electorate assembly, Ladakh will not.

Abrogation of Article 370- This article of the constitution accorded special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir- provision for its own constitution, autonomy over creating laws, and not enforcing many created by the central govt. This status is now scrapped.

Abolishing the status of “permanent residence” provided by Article 35 A of the Indian constitution-basically implies anyone outside Kashmir can now acquire immovable property, government employment, scholarships provided by the state.

Reception of the bill

Immediately after the law was passed, defence forces outlaying the number of civilians were deployed, curbs and curfews, horrific human rights abuses and imprisonment took place, internet ceased for over five months, along with a crackdown on local leaders and former ministers of state.

Many More On Streets

The last couple of years has witnessed doctors, lawyers, Dalits, labour workers, teachers, and many more on the streets protesting against legislation passed concerning them. This is concerning.

But, if you recognise this pattern in how the government responds to these dissent as I see, it gets more concerning with time. If turning a deaf ear and blind eye to opposition becomes the ultimate resort, the fundamental rights of the country are under threat.

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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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