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Shaheen Bagh: The 100 Days Battle That Shook The Indian Democracy

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Shaheen bagh protest shook our democratic nation. The long-run protest was against the Citizen Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens, National Population Register, but also other issues like police brutality, women’s safety, unemployment, and poverty.

Mainly consisting of Muslim women, the shaheen bagh protest was going on since 14th December 2019 and has blocked a road in Delhi using non-violent resistance amid police intervention against students of Jamia Millia Islamia who were opposing the amendment.

The protest ended on 24th March 2020 because of the Covid-19 outbreak in the nation. It was the longest protest held in India for successive 101 days against CAA-NRC-NPR, but one of the protestors said, “Shaheen Bagh has become a thought process. It isn’t a neighbourhood anymore. The protest will continue. We will first fight novel coronavirus and then come back to defeat hateful and divisive politics.said Hena Ahmad.

Shaheen bagh protest has gained public outrage. More than 100,000 people joined it, from locals to older people and to children. The protesters were also supported by more than 100 volunteers, including students and professionals from Delhi. These volunteers organized themselves around different tasks; setting up makeshift stages, shelters, and bedding; providing food, water, medicine, and access to toilet facilities. The protest became the longest sit-in protest in the history of modern India.

Shaheen Bagh: The New Wave Art Protest

The protests saw a new wave when the protesters uncovered murals, graffiti, posters and banners, and scale models. Such art was created to show resistance against CAA/NRC. It consisted of unique artworks like a mini replica of India gate with the names of people who died in the protests across India inscribed, painted with a message “Hum Bharat ke log CAA-NRC nahi mante“.

Another art was shown with the boats arranged in the shape of the heart facing the battle tank. The boats were inscribed with the words “Hum dekhenge“. The posters proclaim that the protesters are “bouquets” rather than a lotus, giving unity in diversity. The art was made by students of different universities in India. The protest was different from others as we can see different kinds of arts that show resistance of protestors and unity message to stick together in a hard time.

They also had a cultural event called “Artist Against Communalism“. Performers like Shubha Mudgal sang, “Hamari khwaishon ka naam inquilab hain“. Rapper Sumit Roy performed his rap “Poorna Swaraj“, and poet Amir Aziz recited “Main inkaar karta hoon“. The wide coverage protest gathered protestors to fight against the system and took it to a new level of non-violent struggle against the government policies, where they used different ways to keep the protest alive. Through their graffitis, posters, poems, murals and live cultural event, they showed their resistance.

Children At Shaheen Bagh

On the night of 30th January, a four-month toddler died of a severe cold, which raised the question of children’s safety. Are children safe at the protest? This gained a lot of media attention; many leaders and organization showed their concern not to involve children.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had shown concern by writing a letter to the District Magistrate of South-East Delhi taking note of complaints of the leaders and people. NCPCR had asked the DM to direct the concerned authorities to identify these children and arrange for counselling. It has also asked for a report within ten days.

The letter reads, “It appears that these children might be brought under the influence of rumours/miscommunication and as a result of which, they may suffer from mental trauma.” Many parents showed concern over the matter, and one among them said, “Children have been present from the first day with parents who are in protest. Most of the students visit schools in the morning before coming to the protest site. The place has been turned into an art space for many children. They express their thoughts through poetry, storytelling, and painting. Student volunteers engaged the local children in reading, painting, singing and hold informal reading lessons. But yet amidst all the problems, the protest was not stopped and held with more temperament and enthusiasm.

Inspiration From The New Wave Of Protests

The Shaheen Bagh protests have inspired several other similar protests in the big cities of India. Though the system remains unchanged, it has created a mass movement. All citizens gathered irrespective of their background. They came together to fight against CAA and many other unresolved problems.

It inspired many others too, women of Park Circus, Kolkata gathered at Park Circus maidan to show dissent against CAA, but the situation changed the West Bengal government provided lights, tents, bio-toilets, running water, and extended their full sport.

Another protest held outside Konark mall, Kondhwa, Pune, was organized by Kul-jamaat-e-Tanzeem. A small no of participants started this, but soon 500-600 people gathered to resist against CAA/NRC. Candlelight vigils, human chains, and speeches were part of the protest. Like this across in India, many demonstrations have been happened and are still going on. But this colourful tent that once was a symbol of resistance had been dismantled as police cleared the area on 24th March 2020 amidst the spreading of Covid-19. One protestor said that it is a pause, not a defeat.

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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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