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Does Indian Secularism Threaten Any Religion In India?

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A month ago, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mr. Yogi Adityanath said thatsecularism is the biggest threat to India’s tradition on the global stage“, but he forgot that secularism is part of the Indian preamble and one of the basic feature of Indian rich culture and heritage.

Confronting India’s Secular Nature

Recently, when ISRO launched 19 satellites, it sent the Bhagavat Geeta in the satellites which do not agree with the Indian idea of secularism. Indian secularism is different from western secularism, which is why India stands out from the rest of the world. Indian secularism states that it provides for equal opportunities and honours all faiths equally.

Indians all over the country protested against the CAA.

Enactment of laws on inter-religious marriage, terming it as ‘love jihad’, and linking it to one particular religious community, has been passed in four states that are Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. A PIL has been filed in the supreme court against these laws and needs to pass the test of constitutionality.

The enactment of the Constitutional Amendment Act(CAA) excludes the Muslim community from inclusion in the National Register Of Citizenship(NRC) who migrated from neighbouring countries before 31 December 2014. This resulted in protests against the law. This act violates article 14 which provides the right to equality. This law is still not implemented but it questions the secular character of India.

 Is Any Religion Under Threat Due To Indian Secularism?

Talking about Indian secular character, under the Indian constitution, Article 325 prohibits discrimination based on religion in contesting the election. During the congress regime, the prime minister belonged to the Sikh community and the president belonged to the Muslim community, which reflects communal harmony and equal opportunities for all.

Indian state provides opportunities for people for different religious pilgrimages at subsidized rates like Sikhs going to Pakistan, Hindus visiting Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir, and Muslims going to Mecca for Hajj.

Indian people celebrate birthdays by following the Christian calendar and celebrate with cake, which is part of Christian culture.

In Bakshi ka Talab(located in Lucknow), a Muslim family organizes Ramleela and has been organizing it for three generations.

India has felt scars of many communal riots like the anti-Sikh riots(1984), Babri masjid demolition(1992-93), etc. but passed through these tough times and still holds relevance as a nation.

Many constitutional safeguards are given like articles 25-28 which provide ‘freedom of religion’ which reinforces secularism. After 70 years of independence, India stands strong. Unlike countries like Sri Lanka which cannot provide an equal ground to minorities as Tamilians. India stood for Sri Lankan Tamil rights as well.

Take the case of West Asian countries which declared themselves as Islamic countries and are lagging in terms of growth and development. In terms of national per capita income, they are considered wealthy nations but in terms of human development index, they lag with a big margin and remain politically unstable. Minorities still have to fight for their rights there.

As Pranab Mukherjee said “secularism is inherent in the Indian system, in the Indian ethos and culture. Indian cannot but be secular.

What Protects And Holds Secularism In India?

In India, the Hindu population is a majority but it does not mean that India can be represented by Hindu ideology. Many outsiders tried to change Indian culture especially Britishers but could not able to break the bond of Indian people. Britishers tried to break Hindu-Muslim unity by dividing Bengal in 1905 but it failed miserably and a great sense of unity arose where people tied rakhi and division of Bengal celebrated as a festival.

Our constitution and pillars of democracy like judiciary and journalism are very important in holding the secular character of India, as they stand for truth and hold ‘rule of law’ which provides the same ground to everyone.

Love and tolerance among different religious people are one of the strengths of Indian people and the feeling of brotherhood which is mentioned in our preamble as “fraternity“.

At last, its the citizen of India who needs to decide whether they want to support and appreciate these statement and to stand strong to maintain the basic tenets of Indian democracy. The choice is simply ours as we grew up listening to “democracy is for the people, by the people, to the people“.

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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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