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Hail The Constitution: Help the Bourgeoisie!

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Last year, we saw massive protests against CAA-NRC (the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, respectively) in India. Muslim women spent nights on the road to fight for their rights. Students, even the ones who used to stay away from politics, all over the country felt the need to raise their voices. One characteristic feature of these protests, that we noticed was the symbolic use of the national flag. People also called for saving the constitution of India against fascist attacks on it. Lines from the preamble gained significance. Words like secularism, democracy, equality, justice and liberty, were heard along with the slogans of: inquilab zindabad! (long live revolution).

The sit-in protest at Shaheen Bagh became a model of democratic protest which replicated throughout the country, during the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) movement. Representational image. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

We also found the message of “peace” being conveyed through these peaceful protests against the fascist forces, who parade with guns on their shoulders facing no intervention from the state and the militia of the state itself.

Detention Camps And CAA-NRC

A music video went viral among the “left” and the liberals prior to the Bengal elections (against the Bharatiya Janata Party) this year. In the beginning, we saw a copy of the Indian constitution being brought. They sang: “আমি অন্য কোথাও যাবো না, এই দেশেতেই থাকবো (I won’t go anywhere else, but stay in this very country)“, and that was the title of the video. Most probably, the phrase wanted to address the sense of insecurity people felt due to the implementation of acts like CAA-NRC.

Yes, these laws have Islamophobic aspects, but it will affect and it is affecting the working class, irrespective of religion. In all the “secular, constitutional democracies” of the global north, detention camps for refugees play an important role.

I think it’s the modern-day equivalent of slavery. It’s free labour for the capitalists!

The construction of a detention camp, being built in Assam’s Goalpara, in progress. Representational image. Photo credit: NDTV.

Similar camps are being arranged for in India (even in the federated states with a parliamentary majority of the social democrats) for the detainees, whose citizenship will be snatched away. When these laws were first proposed during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime, the opposition including the Congress, and social democrat parties i.e., the CPI and CPI(M), stood in favour of them. Their excuse was “national security”, a joke that the constitution of India uses to curb all kinds of rights and freedom, that our text book writers are so proud of!

What About The Rights The Constitution Speaks Of?

Quoting Tarapada Lahiri, the renowned Marxist revolutionary, scholar and lawyer, a leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, in its early years: “Today, capitalism is itself in decay. All over the world, the pillars of democracy are shaking. Any attempt of shouting in praise, ‘democratic constitution’, and hailing democracy is rather ridiculous… ‘Democracy’ is not a shelter for the working class, not a tool to liberate them. Bourgeois democracy is an exploitative machinery used to squeeze the blood out of the people. So, we should not be fascinated by the fabrication of the word ‘democracy’.” Lahiri said this in his essay ‘the classist nature of the Indian constitution’ written some 50 years ago. Over the years, capitalism and the bourgeois democracy have aged well. But, they have reached the limits of their progression now.

Signs of this can be found in the rising rate of unemployment, monopoly, privatisation, falling economy, farmers’ uprising, the environmental crisis, the Covid-19 crisis, and the rise of fascists. The narrative the “left” revisionists have been trying to portray is that first, we need to dethrone the fascists with the help of the “anti-fascist”, liberal constitution and its “progressive” bourgeois protectors. They are comparatively the lesser of two evils. Then we can think about how to fight liberalism. It’s your turn to decide if it’s possible to do so, though historical materialism has already proved it to be unattainable.

Liberalism And Fascism

We must remember what fascism is. It’s not only about anti-Muslim communalism or anti-democracy dictatorship, but these are mere tools used by the bourgeoisie in plenty, even in their liberal forms.

But when the same bourgeoisie, to fight the inconveniences among the working class, as a result of the crisis of capitalism, turns to far more aggressive and open violence, their agents don’t need to wear the reassuring mask of the constitution anymore.

Should we make them wear the mask and let the US president, Joe Biden, destroy the world in the same manner its ex-president, Donald Trump, did?

Featured image, taken from Wikimedia Commons, is for representational purposes only.
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  1. শঙ্কু_ পাগলা

    The editor is not getting into contact so the blunder they did by replacing my ‘parties like CPI(M) and CPI’ with ‘the communist parties’ can not be corrected.

    In the fourth line under the heading Detention Camps and CAA-NRC, ‘it’ means the title of the song, not the song itself.

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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.

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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.

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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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