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Opinion: How The BJP Is Using Another ‘Toolkit’ To Distract Indians

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The ruling BJP has done what it does best, yet again—wondering what? Blaming the Congress for ruining India’s reputation globally. A few days ago, the BJP revealed what it called a “toolkit” by the Congress to harm Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre’s image over the handling of the ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While BJP National President J P Nadda first talked about the Congress’s “Toolkit Models” in a tweet, the accusations were taken up by Union Minister Smriti Irani, BJP General Secretary B L Santhosh and Spokesperson Sambit Patra, with BJP leaders sharing a document seemingly printed on the letterhead of the “AICC (All India Congress Committee) Research Department”.

Sambit Patra, the National Spokesperson of BJP, tweeted, “Toolkits are not alien to the Congress and their ecosystem. In fact, a substantial part of their energy goes into making them. Here is a toolkit on the Central Vista…they make one Toolkit of the other every week and when exposed, they deny it.”

BJP President JP Nadda also tweeted and termed the Grand Old Party as a “master” at “dividing society and spewing venom”. He said, “India is seeing Congress’ antics, while the nation is fighting COVID-19. I would urge Congress to go beyond ‘Toolkit Models’ and do something constructive.”

The so-called toolkit goes on to suggest the use of social media to track requests for help by people on COVID, communicating with them, and asking them to tag the IYC (Indian Youth Congress) handle and its leaders, apart from media professionals and other influencers. It also advises social media volunteers to use the term “Modi strain” for the new variant of COVID originating in India, etc.

The document urges Congress workers and supporters to utilise the term “super spreader Kumbh”, tells them to avoid commenting on Eid gatherings, only respond to COVID SOS messages if a person tags the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) Twitter handle, use pictures of funerals and dead bodies, which is already used by International media, etc.

It further layout instructions that the new coronavirus mutant should be called “India strain” or “Modi strain” as “forgery” and “fraud”.

The Congress obviously has denied the allegations and a war of words has started between the two major political parties. Meanwhile, the Congress filed an FIR against the four BJP leaders with the Delhi Police Commissioner while accusing the Saffron Party of propagating a fake “toolkit”.

Rajeev Gowda, Chairman AICC Research Department, tweeted, “BJP is propagating a fake ‘toolkit’ on ‘COVID-19 mismanagement’ & attributing it to AICC Research Department. We are filing an FIR for forgery against @jpnadda & @sambitswaraj. When our country is devastated by COVID, instead of providing relief, BJP shamelessly concocts forgeries.”

An analysis by fact-checking and proofreading website Alt News has revealed that the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Research Department letterhead has been doctored within the toolkit document, raising questions about its authenticity.

As per Alt News, “An examination of the content of the document, meant to strategise a future course of action, reveals that it refers to events that have already taken place in the past. BJP till now has only shared screenshots of the alleged toolkit and has failed to produce the original — either the PDF version or the Microsoft Word version. Without the original document, BJP’s claims come across as inauthentic, especially because the ‘toolkit’ is made on a poor copy of the original letterhead used by the AICC’s research wing.”

modi bjp toolkit congress
Representative Image.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the BJP has tried to blame a “toolkit” for tarnishing India’s and PM Modi’s image internationally. Most of us remember when the whole right-wing, including the Indian government, blamed Swedish Environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

The alleged toolkit contained a social media plan on farmers’ protest in India, later deleted by Greta, who uploaded a new toolkit. The whole toolkit controversy created a stir in India, from online trolling of so-called Environmental activist Greta Thunberg to filing an alleged FIR against her.

Believe it or not, it seems every time the Union Government fails to act on issues as it is supposed to be, a new toolkit takes centre stage. It looks like the whole point of this so-called toolkit is to divert the attention from how the government is failing Indian citizens who are gasping for oxygen, desperately trying to find one COVID bed for themselves or their loved ones.

We have reached a point where journalists reporting from the ground are termed as insensitive vultures, anti-nationals, who are selling themselves to harm the image of India. Meanwhile, the prime time anchors are being hailed for not asking the questions from the government for its incompetence in handling the deadly second wave of COVID.

When the entire country is fighting the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and lack of medical support, the two leading national political parties are busy in a blame game just to gain brownie points for themselves.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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