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Locked Down Since August 2019, How Are Kashmiris Coping Amid Violence And Second Wave?

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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.

We in Kashmir are under a lockdown since August 5, 2019, when the Indian government revoked the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and put the entire state under an indefinite strict lockdown and curfew. We had never thought that such a lockdown and curfew would be imposed in Kashmir in the 21st century, but we were wrong. The internet was shut down and media was put under strict restrictions. People were caged in their homes and nobody knew what was happening in their neighbourhood village or town. After several months of this curfew, the internet was restored.

Life returned to normal in March after much snowfall during winter. People were half jubilant. They knew something was lost. They knew that Kashmir was not the same like it was before August 5, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Laws were changed and thousands of people were still in jail. And the smoke of terror was still in the air.

Then came the coronavirus, aka Covid-19, with full flow and brought with it another lockdown. It was found in December 2019 in Wuhan but spread rapidly in India only in February-March of 2020. Educational institutions were closed and curfew-like restrictions were imposed yet again. I, too, like any other young man, wanted to reconcile with the things around me.

Because of the prolonged lockdown in Kashmir, thousands lost the opportunity to study in universities and colleges. Children were promoted to the next class without going to school. Representational Image. Source: The Economic Times

I immersed myself in books.

I read many books during this time, including Iranian writer Shokoofeh Azar’s Booker-nominated The Enlightenment of Greengage Tree, Alice Munro’s short stories, Viktor E Frankl’s book on the Holocaust, Man’s Search For Meaning, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Albert Camus’s The Plague, Amandeep Sandhu’s Sepia Leaves and Shabir Ahmad Mir’s The Plague Upon Us, and many others, and also hundreds of articles on literature, politics and culture.

I don’t like popular literature much, but during this prolonged lockdown, I read Cecelia Ahern’s PS. I Love You as well and enjoyed it. After some weeks, I started visiting the playground and playing tennis-ball cricket there. But the peace was missing as Covid deaths increased with each passing day.

Every day, someone was losing some dear one to Covid. People were rendered workless and jobless. One of the biggest migrations in India started with the announcement of a lockdown. Poor migrants died on roads and railway tracks. And nobody cared.

This routine continued for few months till the effect of the virus diminished. But these few months were tough. My mother in her old age asked me many times:

“Vi kya banned yath. Hartal Karr mokli (What will happen now. When will the lockdown end).”

And I would reply with the same words that I have used many a times since the 1990s when militancy first erupted in Kashmir.

“Kehn doh pati. Halaat gassan jaldi theek (After some days. And conditions will improve soon).”

And this question I would hear every three-four days, and my reply would be the same every time. On the other side, killings of civilians and militants continued. Mothers and sisters continued to wail and families were denied the last glimpse of their loved ones who got killed in crossfires. These dead were buried hundreds of kilometres away from their families and homes in the woods and on mountains.

Thousands of people were denied job opportunities as offices were shut, interviews cancelled and no recruitment notices. Thousands were rendered jobless. Thousands lost the opportunity to study in universities and colleges. Children were promoted to the next class without going to school.

And when half-normalcy returned, it was too late. It was exam time. Then came the winter and schools were again closed. And when the schools opened this year, they were closed again after a month before children could even start reading and learning anything. And this time again, because of the second wave of Covid-19.

Since the second wave of Covid, it is the same story again: lockdown and curfew. Closure of offices. Death of dear ones. Mourning and gloom everywhere. Representational image.

So again the same story: lockdown and curfew. Closure of offices. Death of dear ones. Mourning and gloom everywhere. The second wave brought much more destruction with it than the first wave. Now, not only the poor are dying and but even engineers, doctors, professors, politicians are dying of this virus, and nobody knows what is in store or has any clue about when this virus will end.

I have again started to read books just like the previous year, but everyday deaths and destruction have robbed the taste of reading books. The killing of hundreds of children in Palestine by Israeli attacks during this summer has made the atmosphere even more gloomy.

My heart goes out to the Palestinian children caught in this deadly conflict. Children running for cover, and hiding under rocks and broken homes reminds me of my childhood in the 1990s when we used to hide behind the walls and lay down in our houses to avoid being hit by stray bullets during crossfires between forces and militants.

And during one such cross-firing, children, the young and old, and even women started running away from our village. It was like bullets were flying above our heads and we were thinking that at any moment the bullets will hit us, too. It also reminded me of the children who lost their mothers and fathers during this decade-long conflict.

May this Covid end soon and may peace prevail in Kashmir and the whole of the world so that children breathe in the air free of violence and terror and start to go to school again. Amen.

About the author: Ashraf Lone is from JNU, New Delhi.

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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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