The month of October marked the rise of global protests. Most of these anti-government protests are scattered around the Middle-East, Africa, Latin Americas and Asia.
In Lebanon, a large population joined the peaceful non-sectarian protest because of the inability of the government to find solutions to the economic crisis plaguing the country since the past year. This mass protest led to the resignation of the country’s Prime Minister. Though the country is divided into Shia, Sunni and Christians, all came together to push out the PM from the office.
In India, we have reached the peak of the unemployment crisis, the manufacturing industry is under huge strain, workers have been fired in the automobile sector, prices of essential food like onion, tomatoes and other vegetables & pulses are on a rise, and last not the least all of these problems are reflected on the ever-declining quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our country.
Why don’t we protest against our government?
Is our nationalism limited to Pakistan- bashing, inciting hatred among other communities and blindly following government policies without critically monitoring every move? Many have been brainwashed by the idea of ‘national security’, where our government constantly engages with our neighbouring country to divert our economic woes, thereby, reducing criticisms on the economic crisis.
In some countries, autocratic and dictatorial leaders have attempted to suppress the voice of the people, but with one united voice, these people have fought back for a better standard of living. Do you think Indians will ever come together on a large scale to protest against the inability of our government to propel our economy? Unlikely.
Most of our protests are localized and fought on a regional scale and other parts of the country do not care much about what is happening at the other end of the country. We should remember that these regional issues will have national reverberation if not solved unitedly at the right time.
When Article 370 was abrogated by the BJP led NDA government in August 2019, Jammu & Kashmir has been under curfew, and the Union Government blocked the Internet and other cellular services. While the country was appreciating the government’s move, did we – sitting in different parts of the country – think of protesting against the government’s crackdown on internet, cellular services and curfew that paralyzed the people over there? Only a few cared about this. The government would not have had that much power to indulge in such a lockdown for such a long time if there was an awakening among the people across the country.
In India, large scale protests are mostly centred around distressed farmers. There is a huge agricultural crisis in the country and the government has been unable to answer the problems. Only those affected by this problem i.e the farmers participate in such protests. Has anybody, who belong to a non-agricultural background, thought of joining this protest to give more weight? Doubtful. Since this is a farmers’ protest, we have left it to them.
Will the government listen to our demands if we protest?
Hypothetically, if we protest, will our government listen to us? Our governments have only listened to demands that will affect electoral outcomes. There have been protests for caste-based reservations in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The respective state governments paid heed because a huge electoral outcome was at stake.
Our government will hardly address environmental and climate change issues because such demands do not have any direct outcome in the electoral politics of India. Therefore, in order to address our economic issues, we need to make ‘economy’ an electoral bargain with these political parties like how ‘reservation’ has been done.
Our country is extremely divided. British left 72 years ago, but even the self-proclaimed nationalistic political party follows the ‘divide and rule’ policy till now. It will be one tough task to unite and fight for one cause. This might even take years. But small steps will make a lot of significance.
For example, if there is a hike in the metro fare in Delhi, people can organize a mass protest against the government – like how one million Chile’s population protested against the Chilean government’s decision to hike the metro fare. We should not sit silent and follow all the directions of the government.
The need for a strong Opposition Party and Civil Society
The present coalition NDA government is blessed with very weak opposition. The Indian National Congress is fighting for its survival due to a deep leadership crisis. When we have a majoritarian government, the opposition needs to play a very active role. However, the opposition has been unable to do much about the current economic crisis in our economy.
Regional parties are busy with their own regional issues and politics. But the National Parties have taken this economic crisis very lightly although the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has spoken against the government. One voice is not enough. The Opposition party should organize a mass protest against the government by bringing people from across the country.
We need to activate our civil society for larger national interest and be a vigil to the government. Civil society will play a pivotal role to unite every community across the country to bring under the umbrella of one cause – to fight against the inability of the government to solve economic issues. Do not remain subdued under a majoritarian government.
A mass protest will not necessarily take a violent turn. We belong to a country where we believe in civil disobedience and non-violence. We just commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. But it seems like, we as Indians, have forgotten the teachings of the father of the Nation. This is a wake-up call. Fight for your country!