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Let Us Revisit The Historical Events Leading Up To Indian Independence

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On the eve of India’s independence, towards midnight, on August 15, 1947, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivered the “tryst with destiny” speech. Nehru spoke on the aspects that transcended Indian history.

Arguably considered to be one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century, he said: “Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.”

Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of a free India. Representational image.

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history when we step out from the old to the new when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and the still larger cause of humanity,” he said. 

India Was Not Balkanised

In the run-up to the independence, a vile plan was devised by a handful of powerful princes to remain independent. The plan was led by the chancellor of the chamber of princes.

The Nawab of Bhopal was operating under the direct patronage of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Lord Wavell and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to create a third dominion called Princestaan, along with India and Pakistan.

It was planned that the 565 princely states would stay outside the ambit of the two free states and retain paramountcy under the aegis of the departing British.

The success of such a malevolent plan would have made the newly independent nation unstable and vulnerable. But three persons, Nehru, Sardar Patel and lord Mountbatten battled the rulers of the princely states at every twist and turns; and foiled the nefarious British plan to balkanise India. 

What Does Purna Swaraj Mean?

At the 1929 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress, the purna swaraj declaration, or the declaration of the independence of India, was promulgated, and January 26, 1930, was declared as independence day.

The Congress called on people to pledge themselves to civil disobedience and “to carry out the Congress instructions issued from time to time” until India attained complete independence.

Celebration of such an independence day was envisioned to stoke nationalistic fervour among Indian citizens, and to force the British government to consider granting independence.

Congress observed January 26 as the independence day between 1930 and 1946. The celebration was marked by meetings where the attendants took the “pledge of independence”.

Jawaharlal Nehru described in his autobiography that such meetings were peaceful, solemn, and “without any speeches or exhortation”.

MK Gandhi envisaged that besides the meetings, the day would be spent in doing some constructive work, whether it is spinning, or serving Dalits, or reunion of Hindus and Muslims, or prohibition work, or even all these together.

Following actual independence in 1947, the constitution of India came into effect on and from January 26, 1950.

Arrival Of Lord Mountbatten

In 1946, the government in Britain realized that it had exhausted its coffers due to World War II. It also realized that it had neither the mandate at home, the international support nor the reliability of native forces for continuing to maintain control in an increasingly restless India.

On February 20, 1947, then-prime minister Clement Attlee announced that the British government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948 at the latest.

The new viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, believing the continuous contention between the Congress and the Muslim League might lead to a collapse of the interim government.

He chose the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, August 15, as the date of power transfer. The British government announced on June 3, 1947, that it had accepted the idea of partitioning British India into two states.

Jawaharlal Nehru (extreme left), lord Mountbatten (in the middle) and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (extreme right) seated together. Representational image.

The successor governments would be given dominion status and would have an implicit right to secede from the British commonwealth.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947, of the parliament of the United Kingdom partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan (including what is now Bangladesh) with effect from August 15, 1947.

It granted complete legislative authority upon the respective constituent assemblies of the new countries. The Act received royal assent on July 18, 1947.

The Partition And Communal Violence

Millions of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu refugees trekked the newly drawn borders in the months surrounding independence.

In Punjab, where the borders divided the Sikh regions into halves, massive bloodshed followed; in Bengal and Bihar, where mahatma Gandhi’s presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was mitigated.

In all, between 2,50,000 and 10,00,000 people on both sides of the new borders died in the violence. While the entire nation was celebrating independence day, Gandhi stayed in Calcutta in an attempt to stem the carnage.

On 14 August, 1947, the independence day of Pakistan, the new dominion of Pakistan came into being; Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as its first governor-general in Karachi.

The Constituent Assembly of India met for its fifth session at 11 p.m. on August 14, in the constitution hall in New Delhi. The session was chaired by India’s president, Rajendra Prasad.

The members of the assembly formally took the pledge of being in the service of the country. A group of women, representing the women of India, formally presented the national flag to the assembly.

The dominion of India became an independent country as official ceremonies took place in New Delhi.

Nehru assumed office as the first prime minister, and the viceroy, lord Mountbatten, continued as its first governor-general. Gandhi’s name was invoked by crowds celebrating the occasion.

Gandhi, however, did not participate in the official events. Instead, he marked the day with a 24-hour fast, during which he spoke to a crowd in Calcutta, encouraging peace between Hindus and Muslims.

India Keeps China In Check

Internationally, India has emerged as an indispensable economic, strategic and geopolitical power in the 21st century, given its power of being the largest democracy in the world and its role as a counterweight to China’s growing influence.

India and China
India and China are neighbours and adversaries, both. India’s presence in south Asia keeps China in check. Representational image.

In recent years, because of robust Indian diplomacy, I believe that there has been a substantial decline in the international interest in Kashmir, despite Pakistan’s efforts at highlighting the situation there to its own diplomatic advantage and to the Indian administration’s disadvantage. 

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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