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With Politician Visits And Special Campaigns, The Power Struggle In Assam Is Ferocious

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The BJP’s victory in the Assam election of 2016 was remarkable, and this time, the ruling party has set an even higher goal to win — 100 of the 126 Assembly seats along with its allies the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and the Asom Gana Parishad (Mitrajot). However, the opposition Congress in the state is leading an even bigger alliance, a 10-party-led ‘Mahajot‘ (Grand Alliance) with major parties including All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) to contest in the Assembly election this time.

The electoral scene is fundamentally unique this time, with new alliances and the emergence of new issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In contrast, the opposition Congress has promised ‘Five Guarantees’ to the citizens, including: cutting off the controversial CAA, waiving farm loans, and providing micro credit to women in Assam. These promises have been made to seek votes for the Grand Alliance with an eye to snatch power in the state from the BJP-led government.

The five guarantees include five lakh government jobs in five years, steps to scrap the CAA, free electricity up to 200 units for all households, Rs 2,000 per month to all homemakers, and enhancing the daily wage of tea garden workers from Rs 167 at present to Rs 365.

The 126-seat state of Assam recorded a 79.93% voter turnout in the first phase of polling for 47 seats, 73.03% in the second phase for 39 seats, and 82.33% in the third phase for 40 seats. Credit: Getty Images

On the other hand, the Sarbananda Sonowal government is advertising itself as a vehicle of good governance. The BJP’s ‘10 commitments‘ are: assuring a flood-free Assam through raking rivers and building large reservoirs for excess rain water, strengthening Namghars (community prayer halls), creating a taskforce to recover the land of Satras (Vaishnav Monasteries) and places of worship of tribal communities from illegal encroachment, ensuring food self-sufficiency, and creating jobs and entrepreneurial options. The current ruling government, the BJP, has also promised to distribute land deeds to all landless Indian citizens of the state of Assam in a phased manner.

As per an opinion poll conducted in early January this year, the IANS C-Voter ‘Battle for the States’ survey predicted that the BJP would come to power in Assam by winning nine seats less than its 86 out of the total 126 seats of Assam Assembly in 2016. It predicted a gain of 14 seats for the Congress-led UPA giving it around 40 seats.

However, surprisingly, the most recent opinion poll by Times Now-C Voter has predicted the BJP’s win in Assam by a thin margin over the Congress. Also, the gradual decline in the BJP’s winning margin was attributed to the recent political developments and the ‘Five Guarantees’ by the opposition Congress.

The 126-seat state recorded a 79.93% voter turnout in the first phase of polling for 47 seats, 73.03% in the second phase for 39 seats, and 82.33% in the third phase for 40 seats.

As usual, the people of Assam saw the visit of many high-profile national leaders as star campaigners from both the parties. This is besides the constant flow of the usual star campaigners from the two major contending parties for power arriving from Delhi in chartered flights to join state-level leaders and their respective party candidates’ campaign. These include Modi, the Gandhi siblings, and a litany of current and former Central ministers.

From door-to-door meetings to visiting tea garden workers, parties left no option to attract the voters. The Congress launched ‘Assam Bachao‘ on a social media video contest, asking people to make two-minute videos on the state’s biggest issues.

Meanwhile, due to the fear of horse-trading by the current ruling government BJP, the AIUDF sent its assembly election candidate to Rajasthan. Congress ally BPF also did the same with its candidates. All political parties are vulnerable and the fear of poaching candidates is genuine during this time.

The descriptions in this Assembly election have presented the electors with the option of choosing between those seeking to burn bridges and those seeking to build bridges in the multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic state of Assam. The political situation in Assam seems to be a completely muddled pool and who is going to catch that ‘Power Seat Fish’ is a million dollar question.

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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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