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How The Definition Of Being Anti-BJP Changed With Time

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It’s the summer of 2014 and the world’s largest democracy is about to see a dramatic shift of power on a central level.

Narendra Modi takes the oath of office as the Prime Minister of India, with President Pranab Mukherjee administering the oath. Photo: Wikipedia

A highly awaited moment that everyone was eagerly waiting for, some negatively and some positively. The prime minister of India was now declared to be the man who was famous for his competence in addressing the public and being a flag bearer of India’s politically right-wing, Narendra Modi.

A man that swore to reverse India’s history with politics, which “oh boy, I’m sure he has”, is now to be in place of the highest central and political power. The joyous screams of the elite Hindus, as if the saviour himself had come to them, filled the streets whilst some were scared about the divide this is going to create within the diversity of India. Some were scared as if this was the repetition of the 2002 riots in Gujarat with a masquerade of ending corruption.

I would go on and on about critiquing the government if I had to, in fact, I have tried to find sense in the people who still have faith in Modi but I would rather not say anything that will land me in jail and threaten my journalistic freedom. In my opinion, it’s up to a person’s own conscience that they choose to support a person or vice versa, and I choose not to, when it comes to BJP, its allies and its cabinet.

BJP Demonstrate In Kolkata
Indian supporters and party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wear masks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and flash victory signs as they celebrate on the vote results day for India’s general election in Kolkata on May 23, 2019. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked on course on May 23 for a major victory in the world’s biggest election, with early trends suggesting his Hindu nationalist party will win a bigger majority even than 2014. (Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In fact, India has never seen a larger share of political prisoners speaking against the government before the Modi-Shah duo took over the spaces of media. Sad to say the least, poets, activists, journalists, political leaders and visionaries are seen as a threat to the whole nation if they dare talk back to the government, further on, jailed.

Kafeel Khan, a doctor from Uttar Pradesh, was jailed when he dared to speak against the questionable Citizenship Amendment Act. His crime? Merely exercising his duty as a citizen and a contributor to his economy by using his democratic right of free speech and to protest. Reminds you of the 1977 elections, doesn’t it? With the rise of Sanjay Gandhi’s inhumane ways to torture young men by forceful sterilisation and the aftermath of the Emergency.

The saddest part however is that India is once again in an undeclared state of emergency.

Where governments have tried to address, even if they failed in the implementation to actually listen to minorities, or even taken the initiative to, Modi’s IT cell says that it doesn’t work for “minority appeasement”. If the reverse of minority appeasement is the violation of human rights against the oppressed, then I’d any day choose a rather corrupt government than that. It’s highly utopian for both to be simultaneously eradicated but when your government takes lives instead of money, you’re destroying the lives of those who make up this “democracy”.

With cases that will send chills to your spine like Hathras, I insist that you do not turn a blind eye to the visible casteism in cases like these. The ones that became prominent with the rise of the saviour of Hindus, upper-caste men who want to dominate over the country’s population, making India a Hindu alternative to countries that are religiously affiliated.

Coming back to what I feel changed the whole narrative of critiquing the government to hating the country is the sudden decrease in tolerance among communities and the inversely proportional rise of ‘so-called nationalism’, a feeling that is as Indian as, let’s say, Lord Mountbatten.

Stepping aside from the obvious sarcasm, the feeling of nationalism has driven people in Europe’s contemporary history to unite against the imposition of foreign authoritarianism but in India, all it has led to, is lynching in the name of religious gate-keeping, communal violence and the obligation to love the government, irrespective of what it does, because the footlickers of the foot that steps on the burning corpses across the nation, with no dignity whatsoever, insist that being anti-government is equal to being anti-’national’.

Now excuse me, a forthcoming voter of this country, before I get slapped with a UAPA while the capitalism-driven ‘saviour of our country’ approves the central vista project and international media calls him a ‘narcissist leader’. Rest as John Maynard Keynes said, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

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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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