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Opinion: Megalomaniacs Want To Cut Down On Critics And Control The Internet

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The internet was believed to be a free space for a while now until the government started expressing their desire to control it. In a recent ruling by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITy), social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram may face a ban if they fail to follow the Intermediary Guidelines.

These guidelines were issued in February 2021, and these social media platforms had around 3 months to comply with these guidelines. The companies are yet to respond to the Intermediary Guidelines. The fate of us Indians on social media hangs in the balance because that’s what the media wants us to think.

social media apps
Representative Image.

Will Social Media Be Banned In India Tomorrow?

No, it won’t be banned. The current situation has led to the rise of a lot of clickbait-y headlines. These headlines do nothing but spread panic among the people. There’s a reason why such stringent “chowkidaari” of Indian social media is not possible. Primarily, these platforms could drag the law enforcers to court to challenge the guidelines because:

  1. There are a lot of questions surrounding the implementation of these rules. The answers to these questions aren’t ready yet. India still needs time to figure out how to go about these rules before implementing them.
  2. These rules that are on the verge of implementation are weak, and strong action will expose them.
  3. 3 months isn’t time enough for these platforms to restructure themselves to integrate the changes suggested.

These are three primary issues as per my understanding of these guidelines, but there are more problems in banning social media. But what if these issues are resolved, and the social media platforms end up implementing these changes? What happens then?

Why Is This An Issue?

According to the constitution, India is a democracy. It still is, at least on pen and paper. However, certain powerful people in the Central Government, to consolidate power, are now trying to silence free speech on social media.

Free speech is a right granted to all human beings globally. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognises it as a fundamental right. India happens to be one of the nations that are a party to the UDHR. This means, Indian citizens should have access to this right, and it’s the government’s responsibility to see that this right is being protected.

Yet, these powerful individuals within the Central Government, since 2016, have time and again gone to unimaginable lengths to curb this right. You don’t need to be reminded of the instances when people were arrested during the Delhi protests for raising slogans against the atrocities committed by these people and the Central Government. 

Representative Image.

I don’t need to remind you when comedians Kunal Kamra and Munawar Faruqui were charged for making jokes about these people. Faruqui was even jailed for the same. Likewise, Telugu poet and activist had criminal charges levied against him for raising his voice against the government.

There are way too many incidents that prove that these power-hungry megalomaniacs are trying to quash free speech within the country. So I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that fascism is having a gala time while democracy bleeds on the street.

Why Target Social Media?

The answer is simple. The angry young people of today turn to social media to express their displeasure about everything under the sky. Be it their friends or the world-famous chai-wala, everyone turns to the internet. And the only way to curb these critics would be by introducing “Compliance Officers” to check who’s saying what on the internet.

There exists no mechanism for the common mass to raise their voices, truth be told. These people and their spokespersons are quick to term anyone who protests as anti-national. The only time when the masses actually get to raise their voice is during the elections.

But then again, it’s the media that controls the elections these days. Unfortunately, reporting is done in such a way that we’re swayed in favour of a particular political party. This plan, if implemented, will be a severe blow to the very foundation of our democracy.

Ironically, back in May 2018, there was a tweet from a very prominent figure who said, and I quote, “I want this government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong.”

Maybe he believes that criticism isn’t necessary anymore and hence has decided that this should be how the internet should be handled. It’s hypocritical of this country to call out China and North Korea for trying to suppress free speech and then go on to do the same within their own borders.

The social media companies have asked for 6 months before taking any decision regarding the same. The only social media platform to comply with these demands happens to be “Koo”, but no one cares about them.

You might be surprised to see me not name anyone. But, honestly, I don’t need to because I believe some smart people visit this platform. And if you have a problem with it, that’s because you know who I’m talking about. And deep down, you accept that they’re megalomaniacs too.

By Amitesh Dhar

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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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