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Should Our Leaders Talk Of ‘Democracy’ If All They Do Is Silence Dissent?

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Disclaimer: What you read is absolute rage and indignance. You’re free to relate, retaliate, or feel guilty alongside myself and others in the comments.

Almost a month ago, we celebrated the ‘Independence Day’. It is such a glory for a nation to celebrate the victory that the blood and sweat of millions earned for the motherland and its future generations.

The ones who forged this newly independent nation, did so with the vision of making it inexorable, with the vision of seeing a fathomless growth in a nurturing society, where each soul would dedicate itself to the nation first, to its people next, and to themselves at the end.

However, today, when we see one killing, assaulting, raping, bribing, threatening, conning the other simply for personal or vested interests, I feel, there must have been some point where we faltered – as citizens, as voters, and as human beings.

Representational image.

Is The Celebration Of Patriotism Enough?

I am sure you cherish the “Tiranga” (tricolor) on the 15th of August, the 26th of January and on certain other annual occasions, but what before and after that? Are tricolor dresses, kites, patriotic songs building the roof for the under-privileged? Are the mere garlands over statues on some particular days bringing a GDP growth?

Are you, enabling harmony by singing some poems on certain days, while on others who judge a fellow based on a culture that they’re born in? Most importantly, are you teaching your children the real ideals of the freedom leaders while you dress them for fancy dress competitions in round glasses with a stick, or with a moustache and a hat, or with a shawl and round glasses, or in ‘Nehru jackets’?

Well, thank you for understanding how parochial we have been towards the real concept of being a patriot. And if you still aren’t sure of whether to mend your ways or not, let me just ask some questions here, and answer none.

Are you genuinely so fond of history, that based on its beguiling new claims, you’re wishing for the eviction of certain communities, simply to defend your ego that makes you believe in your assumed superiority? With what authority do the ministers claim their efforts for welfare, when behind their billboards, are authoritarian policies, that pounce on the protestors?

With what voice are they eligible to talk of a ‘New India’ or of ‘Democracy’ where each one of them silences the dissenter, whether with laws that only the Imperials used, or with guns, that even soak the blood, and hide the corpses from the rest living? After all, in which factory is their audacity manufactured, when they simply work for personal propaganda, and for dismantling the diversity in the name of a public-loved government?

Where is the authenticity of the adulated bureaucracy, when right beside the placards of their posts, they stand insensitive, ignorant and useless to the homeless little kids who are merely used as money making tools by gangs that are in fact, involved with the authorities themselves? Where is our own sense when akin to sheep, we simply follow what the profit making politicians claim?

Where are our own memories of nightmares that the ineffective policies induced, that we yet again, lose on social responsibility and act according to our ‘id’? Where is our courage, that no petitions ever knocked the doors of the apex guardian of the law when all that the Government did, was fill our brains with false statements and stats?

Where is our claimed compassion, when even in the 75th year of independence, the agony of the homeless, the helpless, the uneducated, and the abhorrence of zealots still tears apart the sanctity of the nation? Why have we left the soul of democracy dying when today, the leaders appease the temple of democracy and its priest sheds tears?

Where is the veracity when behind the lenses of studio cameras, hate feeding fictions are popularized in the name of ‘truths’ and we simply read a short article on the reality, which too is forgotten? And the upholder of the truth, sliced by the sword of a power that can never be questioned?

Forgotten Values And Ideals

In which trash bin did we throw the golden values of “Devi-Pujan” (worshipping women), that today, every 16 minutes, yet another woman suffers and cries for help, while an undesirable man rapes her?

In which isolated island is the so-called male-power residing when today, a man murders a woman in broad-daylight, when yet another beheads his daughter, when in another corner, a priest kills a girl, and the assaults are measured while the blame ends on the sensitive shoulders that were meant to carry school bags and not traumas of lifetime?

Where does a woman lose her motherly instincts, when right in front of her, kids similar to her own, run barefoot on scorching streets to earn a penny or two for a master, who otherwise would harass them? If nothing else, where do we lose our voice, when the crises ascent unbarricaded, and we simply watch, and don’t even logically talk over them?

Where are the core values of the heritage that you’ve been proud of, that today, you blame the nation and leave this house that’s leaking, breaking and crying for an assiduous effort for renovation; simply to live a life that profits you alone?

And if, despite all of that, you are going to end up putting the “Tiranga” (tricolor) in your verandah a particular day, and deviate in your acts from the ideals that the three colors respectively stand for, then kudos, you shall call yourself a worthy patriot, a worthy citizen, only for a single day; and a criminal who is in a way contributing to crime against his/her/their own nation, in some form or the other, every other day.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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