Protest, is an overt reaction of the public to old social order which is driven by clandestine and unrepresentative approach of the government or by violence against the people whom it represents or seeks to represent. There has been a tremendous increase in the protest all over the world and in every sphere whether social, political, economic or religious. People have thronged on the streets, filled the squares and congregated in ‘maidans’ or parks, up against the authoritarian, communist and democratic regimes alike.
On the international front, we had faced or have been facing many protest like Occupy Wall street, protest by people in middle east, brazil etc. However in case of India, protests and protestors have become the orders of the day. No day passes when you do not have a news or cover story about a protest.
The protests in the form of Satyagraha, which was made famous by our Bapuji, won India freedom, though there has been continuous support from revolutionaries as well. But most of the political base and mobilization was the result of economic and political protests in the initial period by moderates which was later accelerated during Gandhian Era.
However, after more than 6 decades, there has been a paradigm shift in the form of protests. Two decades of globalization has led to India-Bharat divide which is debated and discussed by our huge and intellectual dividend in the form of Amartya sen v/s Jagdish Bhagwati debate, Aruna Roy and others. The growing regional disparity in economic sphere and suppression of people’s voices, absence of grievance redressal mechanisms, rising corruption in the public life have all contributed to new form of protests.
Jal Satyagraha has been in news for the past some time. These protests are generally related to hydropower plants and dams. The decision of the government to increase the height of dam led to mobilization of number of people who faced the threat to their land. These people immersed themselves in neck deep water to express their inconvenience with the decision of the government. Other forms of protest are also manifested in the form of self immolation bid as has been seen in the case of Tibetian monks.
The disproportionate growth in the country and subsequent mushrooming of islands of prosperity in the sea of poverty has led to the development of different forms of protest. There have been demands for new states based on economic divide which led to growth of ideological groups like naxalites, factions and regional parties like TRS. They all have been instrumental in expressing their protest against the paternalistic way of central government functioning and funding.
The protest of workers of Coal India Limited and Neyveli Lignite Corporation against the decision of government for disinvestment of its stake has led to great turmoil. The mobilization of people especially youth against the rising corruption and in the aftermath of Delhi gang rape is another example to new form of protests. Protests are also expressed virtually but mightly through networking sites and signature campaigns due to vast coverage and appeal.
All these protests have one thing in common. They all are based on non-violence. As Gandhiji once said,
“A state cannot tolerate violent defiance of authority, but it feels perplexed and puzzled when people show a great strength of non violence through peaceful protest.”
These protests have the power to derail the government or authority and have the capability to mobilize large number of people for the betterment of future. It is upto the government and its bureaucratic machinery on how to deal with these to make India a inclusive, corruption free, value based democracy in which the concerns and grievances of the people are taken into account to find out a way forward.