The future of non-violent protests in India

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Anubhav Chakraborty-

Once celebrated as the land of non-violent protests, India is on a path to change things for the worse.Since the time of pre-independence days when Gandhi led many successful non-violent protests to the days of emergency when J.P Narayan led movement gathered the required political traction.To the most recent ‘Anna Hazare movement’ which shook the corners of several institutions in this country and finally promulgated into the passing of the ‘Lokpal Bill’ which was drafted to be against anti-corruption.Since the 1980’s, however, the road outside ‘Jantar Mantar’ became the freedom square for many protestors.There are many organised protests which took place as well as individual protests.One such protest was led by the farmers from Tirchy from Tamil Nadu who demanded a loan waiver for the worst drought which affected the region.

These farmers caught the attention of the national media, when they protested for the first time because of their innovative protesting techniques.These included eating a rat alive, being lynched, parading naked with the skulls of their dead compatriots from the region. However, they decided to abandon their protest after an assurance from the state government that they would be compensated.The moment they set off from Delhi, a lot of media outlets based in Delhi stated that these farmers were a part of a larger political propaganda.They alleged that all the farmers returned in first class flights.To which till date, there has been no evidence found, except for a theory. After not being delivered on the promise they again came back to Jantar Mantar around July end. However, this time the national media decided to completely ignore any reportage because of the allegations that were levelled against them.

Initially, when they came, they were around more than 20 protestors.However, the harsh Delhi weather left only seven people till the end of the protest.Most of them decided to go back to Tirchy as they were sick and severely malnourished during these periods.One of the protestors stated “Earlier we used to get our meals from local NGO’S who supplied us with ration, however, post the allegations we made it sure not to take help from anyone.” These protestors constitute mainly of old farmers who have made it a point to voice their dissent.Luckily due to the geographical proximity to the ‘Bangla Sahib Gurdwara’ in Barakhamba road, they received their meals from the volunteers of the Gurdwara which helped them sustain their fight.They created a makeshift tent in front of the protest area, where they used to sleep and spend most of their time as well.

However, after protesting for more than three months, they were yet to face another hurdle which was the recent NGT order which stated that no protests were to be allowed in Jantar Mantar , and it was to be immediately shifted to Ram Leela Maidan within a month.Now the thing with Ram Leela maidan, it is a very enclosed space within a forested area and also far away from the seat of the power.They were waiting for the commencement of the winter session of parliament.However as luck would have it, they decided to call off the protest on the 100th day as a sign to show their defiance that they have lost the fight against the government.There was no point further protesting anymore in Delhi.For 100 days they just wanted one goal which was to meet the Prime Minister and demand a loan waiver.

Their defence for not asking their state government and approaching directly to the central government was simply that the central government decides a maximum loan waiver package which they demanded.There were farmers of different age groups who participated in this as well.The young assisted the old in leading this struggle.About five to seven months ago, there was a humongous Jat agitation which largely disrupted the everyday life in Delhi and the Haryana region.It was one of the most violent protests which witnessed a lot of destruction of public protests.However, most of their demands were largely being put into consideration.This leads us back to the same question on what does the future of non-violent protests hold in India.

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