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What Will Terrorism Against India Look Like In The Pandemic

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The pandemic has not just disrupted the status quo but has served as a catalyst, hyper-charging existing trends. This pandemic seems to have had relatively little impact on the trajectory of violence, although terrorism in south Asia appeared to have retreated a step back, not fading but looming in the corner. The abstract is becoming clearer with the impending threats associated with the fresh Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and ISIS-K’s fresh claim to conquer India.

Terrorism in South Asia is a multifaceted reality, especially in India. India’s tryst with terrorism and violent extremism can be traced back partly to the religion-based partition in 1947, which ripped the sub-continent into two nations: India and Pakistan.  Later, the ill-fated apportionment of Kashmir has become an unending dispute in the sub-continent. Kashmir became the target as well as the hub of terrorism. Islamist terrorism quickens around this conflicted region.

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan poses a lot of security threats to India.

Apart from Islamist terrorism, separatist movements drifted from guerrilla insurgencies to terror attacks that had perturbed India’s peace. The Maoist insurgents called Naxalites, defined by the then Indian Prime Minister as “the biggest threat to national security”, are still active in Central India tribal hills, and have also been branded as “terrorists”. India also remains highly vulnerable to terrorism by foreign terrorists, due to porous borders with all its neighbors and a long coastline. Sri Lanka’s LTTE had carried out India’s first suicide bombings. India dreads the militants of Pakistan mainly because of the unsettled situation of Kashmir. Afghanistan is another sore subject for India because of the presence of Islamic States of Khorasan (IS-K or ISIS-K) and Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and it’s becoming a more dreaded country later to the exit of USA from Afghanistan as Taliban swiftly took over the country and formed their own government.

Afghanistan already took a bashing when ISIS-K recently launched a terror attack on the Kabul airport. History testifies that Al-Qaeda and IS’s rampancy rises under the rule of the Taliban. The future might hold the same. Al-Qaeda has a special wing for operation in the Indian Sub-continent, which naturally takes India as their main target. ISIS-K recently claimed to have the aim of establishing Caliphate in India and the plan of jihad has rolled out. The recruitment process is already on the go.

Newer Ways To Recruit And Radicalize

India may prepare for its battle, which may come in a new form. Terrorist organizations have found new ways of radicalization, such as kinship and fundamental studies.

Kinship is likely to play a key role in radicalization and terrorist activities in the mid-Covid world. This is because, with tighter security, monitoring, and territorial controls, terrorist groups have turned to expand their networks via the families of their recruits, resulting in major terrorist attacks involving some or all members of the family unit.

Radicalization may be brought through fundamental education. Madrassas provide fundamental Islamic studies. Madrassa girls were targeted by extremist groups with the hope that these girls will educate and radicalize the next generations at home. This might be the reason why the Indian government wants a change in the syllabus in the Madrassa curriculum but radical Muslims may not have liked it.

Concern For Untraceable Terror Funding

Besides radicalization, collecting funds is equally important for terrorist groups. One significant concern is that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth new risks to the efforts of countering the financing of terrorism with fake charities, fake non-profit organizations, and crowdfunding particularly becoming more frequent sources of terror financing. Terrorist organizations have also begun to exploit the anonymity afforded by Blockchain technology for fundraising and finances.

India has developed the necessary capabilities to counter-terrorism, including legal and institutional framework and technical capability to combat terrorism in its various forms and manifestations, particularly countering the financing of terrorism. However, these are clearly not enough to stop the cash flow to terrorism. With the domination of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the exit of the US Army, a surge in terrorism in the sub-continent is expected and might already be undergoing. Let’s not forget that, between 1991-2001, Al Qaeda was rose from the ground of Afghanistan right after the US left the country after occupying Afghanistan for 20 years. After the attack of 9/11, US Army once again announced their war against the Taliban and hasn’t left the country until now since 2001. Now that, Taliban is back in the driving seat, terrorism is what’s coming.

There hasn’t been any large terrorist attack in the sub-continent for the last couple of years. India’s vulnerability on the Global Terrorism Index remained unchanged in 2020, with improvements in several metrics. There had been a 30% decrease in the number of terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir last year, although there were speculations about the sustainable increment of terror-induced violence in J&K because of the abrogation of article 370. Only the foolish will think that terrorism might have died down or constrained. The very recent claim by ISIS-K post the terror attack on Kabul airport confirms the impending threats. Terrorism might have taken a step back, only to hit back with doubled force. India must be prepared.

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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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