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Opinion: How A ‘MODIfied’ India Has Scotched The Idea Of Our Country

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Why is the expression “Hindu-Muslim” such political toxicity? In front of it, questions of development, infrastructure, economy, jobs, etc., never stand a chance? The perusal of the phraseology of Hindu-Muslims in terms of politics is so powerful that people often forget their basic “Roti-Kapda-Makaan” issues.

The moment the Hindu-Muslim jargon comes into play, one will not talk about unemployment, doesn’t want independent media, fair judiciary, better educational and health sector or any other sector depending on which the nation should be progressing that very idea will bite the dust.

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So, has the idea of India or the Indian narrative, which was established by Mahatma Gandhi nationally and internationally, changed? Or is India witnessing a massive change in civilisation? And if so, is this civilisational change solely emphasised in Hindu-Muslim parlance, or could it be said that in front of the idea of religion, political parties have no idea how to go beyond this objective?

On the contrary, the political opposition which tends to come to power will also eventually wrap itself with this religious blanket. They have to visit temples and chant Jai Shri Ram, and the necessities of common people go for a toss.

The line PM Modi has drawn in West Bengal; if one may choose to stand on either side of it, they must revisit 15 August, 1947. One may call it division, while others may call it the independence of our country where the parliament was rejoicing our freedom. But Mahatma Gandhi was in Calcutta. While there were riots across the country, he was in the streets of Noakhali, trying to unite Hindus and Muslims.

But currently, the situation has changed. Right now, politicians are not concerned about the people. There are no politicians who belong to the pluralistic school of thought. In fact, the parlance of Hindu-Muslims turns the country into a toxically divisive mode.

This leads to a massive shift in the political mandate, and this very shift in political mandate will be evident on 2 May in West Bengal.

It’s high time now; one must decode the political modality of PM Modi. If one scrutinises the whole list, how a political idea has emerged in the country stage by stage shuffles off this mortal coil, politically they will win, but the idea will be no more.

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Years ago, TIME magazine published an article on Anna Hazare, saying his ideas would change India’s image and rejoin the country with Gandhi’s idea of India. But today, there is no Tom Dick and Harry who would vouch for Anna Hazare.

It wasn’t just him, there was Baba Ramdev, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, and currently, it’s Rakesh Tikait. These are all heroes of their spell. But the political roots of their heroics have been sowed by the RSS and BJP in some way or the other.

What was the reason behind the success of Anna Andolan? Post the andolan, Arvind Kejriwal won the elections, but his modality was no different from Modi’s. Modi had his posters all over the country, Kejriwal had posters all over Delhi-NCR. Propaganda was no different either.

The vision behind promoting Kejriwal and then pulling him down, now by giving all the powers to LG despite winning elections back to back, means nothing. Take Nitish Kumar into consideration, BJP did everything for Nitish Kumar and now he is crawling in front of BJP.

How are ideas made to bite the dust, how the struggle is deceased, and how to curb and kill political alternatives? With all these modalities, the farmers’ protests erupted in this very nation with a similar vision. The farmers’ protest can turn out to be a milestone.

But then again, at the beginning of the protest, there was a need for leadership from Haryana and Punjab’s politicians and now that is shifted to Rakesh Tikait. And now it is him who is by and large the face of the protest. Like we have witnessed what happened to Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar, that might exactly be repeated with the farmers’ protest and Rakesh Tikait. You never know.

Parallel to this situation, when one slides in the Hindu-Muslim parley, meaning the religious experiment leading the political assessment which political party who thinks that the idea of religion which is adopted by Modi in Bengal for the political experiment on the land of intellectuals, where all the threads broke down and Modi became the hero in the hearts of people in Bengal.

People of the country also need to re-evaluate and think, whom they are expecting from, and their contribution to the country’s politics? If one would fathom this plight, they’d know how hollow the Indian political system is. The political vacuum of the country will tell the people who to expect from.

Are the people expecting from Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav? Lalu Yadav has had a massive contribution to Indian politics. What is the contribution of Tejashwi Yadav? Or are the people expecting from Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh Yadav? Are you expecting from Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav Thackeray?

The struggle of Bal Thackeray, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav, or may that be the struggle of Shibu Soren, tells you the history. The son of Shibu Soren is now serving as the CM of Jharkhand. These little changes in the country feel like the Ganga flows from right here.

BJP Demonstrate In Kolkata
Representative Image. (Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Is our country so helpless? And that’s the irony of our country. The religious experiment Modi Sarkar is doing with the aid of the RSS will give rise to some ideas and then cripple them then and there.

Some questions shook the country’s conscience, especially with respect to democracy. When we talk about the four pillars of democracy, the first pillar is the media. The media being unbiased can question the government.

But the situation of journalism in India is something we are all aware of. On the international press freedom index, out of 180 countries, we are at 142. That says the media is no more independent in the country.

The second is the judiciary. It is the guardian of the constitution. Again, on the international rule of law index, out of 128 countries, India is positioned at 69. That means the guardian of the constitution is not the guardian in the true sense. We are the so-called largest democracy.

The third is the legislation. The MPs and MLAs must be held accountable to their voters. But no legislator has left with any stature. The BJP is the largest party in the world that horse-traded MPs and MLAs to their party.

Lastly, it’s the executive where the government’s task is to execute people’s agenda. But what’s happening is that the government’s agenda of religious autocracy is being executed in the country.

We can look at Muslim countries and countries that were religious autocracies; the world has witnessed what happened to such countries. But India is based on the threads of the pluralistic society, but the words used by the PM in the speeches in his political rallies are nothing but divisive.

india flag
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India needs peace and harmony, India needs the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, but all those narratives are going for a toss. It’s necessary to mention Gandhi’s vision because if we roll back years during the Khilafat Movement, it was openly opposed by Hedgewar and RSS.

In 1917, the Khalifa of Turkey was thrown off power and Congress supported this moment. And Hedgewar accused Congress of appeasing Muslims through this support. Then later, in 1926, Arya Samaj’s Swami Shraddhanand was killed by Abdul Rashid and Mahatma Gandhi stood in favour of Abdul Rashid and then RSS opposed this openly.

Today if we analyse that situation, the RSS felt the unity of Hindutva and Muslims had no place in that space. And Mahatma Gandhi wanted Hindu-Muslim unity for the sake of independence. Talking about Swami Shraddhanand, when Jallianwala Bagh happened, there was a session of Congress and no Congress leader was ready to go Amritsar.

But it was Swami Shraddhanand who went there, led the congress session, and when the Imperial Legislative Council passed the Rowlatt Act, Swami Shraddhanand protested against the act on the ground.

The RSS viewed him differently than the view of Gandhi. The RSS saw him as a Hindutva figure and Gandhi saw him as a leader who’d unite Hindus and Muslims. Swami Shraddhanand is the only Hindu Monk who, for the sake of the nation’s unity, went to Delhi’s Jama Masjid and gave a speech with Ved, Mantras and Vedic Knowledge. He urged Hindus and Muslims to unite and fight for independence.

Back then, Gandhi’s principle of ahimsa had special strength; people struggled with good spirit. But now, religious sentiments are fierce and violent. This was never a plight in India.

Perhaps the West Bengal election is the counter of civilisational change the country is witnessing today because this civilisational change has buried Mahatma Gandhi long ago. Now, this West Bengal election is the message for the nation.

If you consider Congress, if they say they come from pluralistic society’s school of thoughts, even they during their political struggle to counter Modi embrace religious norms. Rahul Gandhi couldn’t bring that philosophy to counter Modi’s religious norms, which is the philosophy of the idea of India.

modi
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There is no philosophy to beat or go beyond Modi’s religious politics in the country right now. That’s why perhaps questions like employment, bread and butter, education, health sector, conditions of banks, etc., all this doesn’t matter when there is religious politics.

Indian religious politics has become so heavy, if you happen to see the world income rankings, out of 193 nations, we are ranked at 148. In the hunger index, out of 107 nations, we are ranked at 94. Unemployment is at its peak since independence. We are being imposed with the highest amount of excise duty on petrol and diesel.

From every point of view and perspective, this means you never know who will side with whom, and the party in power with its power, may that be with religious ideas, all you can do is think the one who is opposing the party in power might end up with the party in power tomorrow. This is not just about Mukul Roy or Shuvendu Adhikari.

If you observe closely, Param Bir Singh, the ex-commissioner of Mumbai Police, just to counter him, one news channel called him “Shiv Sena’s Puppet”. Later, Param Bir started countering the Shiv Sena and they said that to dismantle an elected government, the central government was using Param Bir.

Take Anil Vaaze into consideration, or any political strategist or bureaucrat. The question will be persistent on where their allegiance lies because there is no political idea left in the country. This is because currently, no political party or leader has had a political struggle in a real sense. It’s all the dynasty politics that’s going on in the country. Dynasty politics have made the politics of the country so hollow that the bargaining power has extinguished.

This is exactly why the farmers’ protest is important. The farmer can revive Gandhi’s India and Gandhi’s ideology in the true sense of politics to create a parallel system to the parliament.

This farmer protest could be the last protest in the current scenario. If farmers don’t happen to understand that through their protest, parallel to the parliament, they could strengthen the democracy by creating a parallel economy, a parallel political system with the desi playbook, that playbook might even take you back to the barter system.

But our protest or struggle is not ready for this. Every time we think the protest will be successful only when they will get political power, that political power which uses the religious help to destroy every single idea of the country. This civilisational change has destroyed India morally.

In the coming days, the mandate of West Bengal might destroy people individually and then the revival of the country post that will be the most difficult task.

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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 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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