Public protests have made a significant impact on Indian politics and society since the British Raj. Be it the historic non-cooperation movement or the 2011 anti-corruption movement from recent times. Protests in a democracy help in maintaining the accountability of the government as dissent and democracy go hand in hand and for ordinary citizens, mass scale protests make it easier for their voice to be heard.
The Article 19(1)(b) of the Indian Constitution states about the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. This clearly shows that the constituent assembly kept in mind the influence of public protests and granted the citizens this right under freedom of speech and expression.
But, since the last few years protesting against the government has been systematically declared anti-national. Political activists and protesters have been put in jails and harassed under the order of the government. Such acts were clearly visible in the CAA protests where numerous people were beaten and activists were taken in custody. The protestors were declared anti-national, hate and venom were spread by the “Godi Media” such declarations lead to riots and communal violence in various parts of the country. This systematic suppression and spreading of hatred lead to the imminent downfall of the Anti-CAA movement. This isn’t the only incident of protesters being systematically suppressed or declared anti-national. The protestors protesting against the removal of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir were also declared anti-national. In the protests following the Hathras gangrape and murder, the protestors were brutally suppressed and prominent leaders like Derek O’Brien were not even allowed to meet the victim’s family.
This suppression has clearly been seen in the ongoing farmers’ protest. Farmers after protesting for months against the new Farm bills in their respective states decided to march towards Delhi (The Indian Capital) and started the Delli Chalo Andolan. The farmers of Punjab and Haryana suffered the brutality and suppression of the government to reach Delhi. The Haryana government blocked and dug pits in the highways leading to Delhi. The police set up barriers and ironically on the constitution day of India farmers had to face water cannons and tear gas. All of these couldn’t stop the farmers from Punjab and Haryana. As all of the shady tactics of the central government failed, they decided to involve the name of a separatist movement to defame the protests and have used “Godi Media” to spread lies and many have declared the protestors ignorant and anti-national.
Thanks to actual news channels like NDTV India the government and its lies don’t seem to work. The farmers have still not been allowed to enter Delhi to protest but they have arrived with food and supplies for over 6 months and are ready to sit on the borders until they get justice. Farmers in millions from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Western Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, and Madhya Pradesh have gathered and have given the nation an example of unity, bravery, and struggle. This time the government can’t do what it wants the farmers have given a reality check. Even after the suppression, the farmers won’t retreat. The government will have to listen to them because the farmers the people who feed us are fighting for their rights. Now even the local urbanites of Delhi are helping out the farmers in their protests by providing them blankets and supplies to survive the harsh Delhi cold.
But, all this constant suppression begs a question – Are we even allowed to protest in modern India?