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Opinion: Democratic Systems Are Flawed, But It’s The Best We’ve Got

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In Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, we saw how the Sith Lord, Sheev Palpatine, became the emperor through his long plot to destroy the Jedi and how he actually succeeds through his famous words: “Execute Order 66”. Those 3 words turned the Jedi’s own army against their former Jedi Generals.

After the destruction of the Jedi Order, Palpatine finally got his wish to rule the galaxy by turning the Republic into the Galactic Empire and later declared himself the Emperor. And the people, particularly the senators, were celebrating this transition, not knowing the dangers it will bring in the future. Padme Amidala perfectly sums it up through the quote“This is how the liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”

Now, this whole ordeal completely parallels Hitler’s rise to power and the rise of the Nazis, which eventually turned Germany from a weakened democracy (fall of the Weimar Republic) to a violent dictatorship. The Night of the Long Knives, Hitler’s own version of Order 66, saw the purge of Hitler’s former allies, enemies and even civilians to consolidate his position and become Germany’s dictator.

People celebrated this moment because they thought someone would finally change something, unlike the democratic government, and undo the humiliation of The Great World War. Little did they know it would lead to the Great War’s sequel, which would be known as The Great War: Electric Boogaloo, a.k.a. World War 2.

caa farm bill protest
The anti-CAA and farmers’ protest.

So what does this have anything to do with India’s democracy? The point I’m trying to make is that democracy is flawed, and at times, it can be thrown out the window and be replaced with something worse. India’s democracy has been turbulent ever since its inception in 1947 when the British Raj ended.

In the 1970s, we saw the emergency era and how democracy was hanging by a thin thread. In the 1990s and 2000s, we saw how political turmoil and religious strives had damaged the pillar of democracy in India. But somehow, it managed to survive that and it stood strong against these odds.

However, the past few years have been very different and cruel. In late 2019, the Anti-CAA protests started to gain traction in India. People were in an uproar regarding the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was considered biased and favourable to one side but not the other (the only reason I’m not talking about this in details is that I know I might be biased and also know that both sides of the political spectrum will maul me online. So please think before you call me a part of the problem. You can look through the hyperlinks to know more).

The whole situation escalated when riots broke out in North-East Delhi, which led to the significant loss of lives. And the Government’s inability to sort this out in a more diplomatic way shows a huge disconnect between the government and the protestors.

This isn’t the only time the government has done this sort of blunder. During the farmers’ protest, lack of governmental dialogue with the farmers led to violent clashes and riots between the police and farmers/protestors, which has led to casualties on both sides and shows a huge disconnect.

The government isn’t the only one at fault. Social Media has rub salt into injuries. The battle of Liberals vs Bhakts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., has done tremendous damage to our democracy. We get offended over a joke and drag patriotism or religion into the argument.

People paint the government as fascist and Nazis and preach democracy even though these woke mosquitoes aren’t aware that they use the phones made by the serfs in the faraway fiefdoms and dictatorships. They pretend to be rebels, revolutionaries or activists, but in reality, they’re just consumers.

They believe every info on Whatsapp and consider it a fact without doing proper research or bringing any proof to back up that fact. And this goes on and on. We have bhakts whining against the minority in the name of the majority and we have liberals whining against the majority in the name of the minority. This whole battle not only leaves any conversation, but any dissenting opinion against the two is like North Korea firing nukes at the U.S. unintentionally.

Tolerance is the most focal point of democracy and it is declining over time. The arrest of Munawar Faruqui over alleged jokes of religious deities or the murder of Rinku Sharma who was “killed over some business rivalry” (that’s what the Delhi Police say) (some people pointed out that his murder was primarily a communal one because Sharma was a member of the Ram Mandir Donation Drive). We might never know what really happened.

However, whatever happened to Rinku Sharma, Munawar Faruqui or others shows how our tolerance level has declined in the 21st-century internet age.

caa farmer protest
We can still protest and criticise the government if they commit any blunders.

Is India truly a democratic country? The answer is no. And this answer applies to every democratic country in the world. The U.S., which is supposed to be the bastion of democracy, had its own turbulent time in 2020 following the George Floyd Protest and Capitol Building Riots, completely shattering the image of the U.S. as the protector of democracy.

Back in the Cold War, the U.S. preached the importance of Democracy and a free world. Yet, they have overthrown regimes that have had communist alignments just to set up their own anti-communist puppets, like in Chile or the Bautista regime in Cuba. The U.K., France, Netherlands and Belgium, who like the U.S., preach democracy in Europe, have done tremendous atrocities under the guise of imperialism in the Congo, India, Indonesia, Algeria, Vietnam and various Asian and African countries.

Russia, a democratic country, is also one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. And North Korea (because they do hold elections but only have one candidate, i.e. Supreme Leader Kim ‘Kardashian’ Jong Un) is a democracy? Don’t make me laugh. It only exists in their name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pakistan has its own history of rocky democracy because of coups and dictatorships. Hong Kong’s Democracy has been silenced by the Communist Chinese Dragon and has brought its own draconian laws, which have been imposed in mainland China.

The COVID-19, which put a stop to the CAA protests, has become a major challenge for the democracies because people’s voices are being suppressed just so the virus can be contained. The rise of media trials and over sensationalism of certain issues like the Galwan Valley or the Sushant Case, how the media played a huge role in making our society and internet toxic and how people consider fanfictions, conspiracy theories and fake news, especially in Sushant’s case, have brought the worse of people, not to include the profound role of Social Media Trial in the Sushant’s case.

So, if the world’s democracies have been imperfect, how can we say that ours is a true democracy? Democracy is flawed. The system of “For the People, Of the People and By the People” has been challenging globally. It can’t be perfected, but it can be made better if we, the people and the government, work together.

The lack of communication must be cleared and we should try and improve our current issues in society rather than fighting and blaming each other. Democracy is not perfect, but it’s a better form of government than absolute monarchy or complete dictatorship.

India may not be a true democracy, but it is still the largest democracy in the world. We can still protest and criticise the government if they commit any blunders. India’s isn’t going to end up like Venezuela, Belarus, Qatar, Iran, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, thanks to our long-lasting democracy. Whatever turbulence it is going through currently, it will pass. I hope it happens soon.

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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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