Angry Indians vent their ire through protests

The current socio-political scenario in India, brings to the fore one pertinent question. Are we Indians angry? Or, very angry? And that is why we are all agitating loudly? Look around, and one will see protesters everywhere. Be it angst-ridden aam aadmi sloganeering on streets of various metros, demanding a rollback of diesel price hike, announced by government recently, or men and women, mostly belonging to fishing community, expressing their vehement displeasure against commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

kudankulam protest

It seems agitation and protest have become order of the day.

Desperate or helpless protesters?

The agitators resisting government's decisions are getting desperate with each passing day. This is well-established at Jal Satyagraha in Madhya Pradesh. Protesters demanded compensation and rehabilitation for villagers whose homes will be submerged due to the rise in the level of Narmada, once the gates of the Omkareshwar dam would be opened.The protesters say the government's decision to increase the water level of the Omkareshwar dam without rehabilitating people living in low lying villages is a violation of a court order.

The sight of villagers, standing neck-deep in water would move any normal mortal. But, state government was too busy with its "pressing work" to come and address grievances of farmers even 10 days after the Satyagraha commenced. Meanwhile, they managed to survive under pitiful conditions.

Anna Factor

It was Arab Spring that began on December 18, 2010, which not only rattled the entire region, forcing rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen to abdicate power. However,  the whole world was woken up from its slumber. The echo of Arab Revolution was clearly heard when now disbanded members of Team Anna, led by activist Anna Hazare started their nation-wide campaign against corruption in India in 2011.

Team Anna, a non-political group wanted passage of Jan Lokpal Bill against corruption. In order to press their demands, members of Team Anna resorted to fast-unto-death, till government was forced to talk with them.

A huge country with myriad issues

Social and political scientists feel that there is nothing surprising about large-scale protest rallies and marches in India. They say, "India is a huge country with myriad issues." Moreover, in a democratic nation, people have every right to express themselves against injustices.
"Unless and until there is no protests and discussions on social, political and economic issues affecting everyone, there is no scope for progress of our democracy," is how experts like to look at the current scenario.

In a democratic set-up people should indulge in healthy discussion. And, if needed its citizens should openly come out on the streets to demand their rights. Since most of the protests are of non-violent nature, analysts say their is nothing wrong or illegal about most of the ongoing agitations.

Why government is charging protesters with sedition?

Be it cartoonist-turned-activist Aseem Trivedi being charged with sedition for posting 'ugly and obscene' content on his web portal, or prominent leaders of Kudankulam agitation who have been booked for sedition and waging war, the very act of invoking draconian laws by the state on mere protesters is beyond understandable.

The question that arises is whether there is any need to invoke provisions such as Section 124A of IPC (Sedition) and Section 121 (waging war against the Government of India) in the context of these protests.

Experts say sedition is "too serious a charge to be slapped on people fighting for democratic rights".

Those who are demanding a repeal of sedition say "it is a vestige of the colonial era, and has no place in a democratic society."

"The application of sedition is also contrary to the spirit of a democratic polity. After all, the process of building up political alternatives has to be based on holding -- and advocating -- views that are contrary to those held by the current holders of power. Sedition serves the power holder very well, because any heterodox opinion can promptly be limited by being safely put away," wrote well-known Binayak Sen, in one of his columns recently.

Civil rights activist Sen was found guilty of sedition by a Raipur court for helping the Maoists in their fight against the state, in 2010.

A corrupt and failed government and its knee-jerk reaction

Congress-led government at the Centre has failed on many counts. Be its economic policies or large-number of corruption charges against it, UPA government in its second term has become a major disappointment for all sections of the society.  Hence it is facing protests. Right within the portals of Parliament, where voices of dissent against government by the opposition parties ended the entire Monsoon Session without any major bill being passed, to the highly charged mob on streets, no government in India has perhaps encountered so much of criticism.

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hardly speaking out openly to explain and reassure the resisting factions, protesters are fast losing their patience.

Analysts feel that if government does not give a fair explanation to all its policies, the cauldron of protest might burst open and spark fires across the country.

It is high time Manmohan Singh, who commands respect for his several structural reforms that liberalised India's economy, takes stringent steps to rein in corruption in his cabinet. But, is the Prime Minister ready to punish the guilty, when he himself has been accused of complicity in the coal block allocation scam?

Till culprits are not punished, it seems India will continue to witness protests.

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