On Protesting and the Right to be Heard

The right to protest and make one’s voice heard is a fundamental right and ties very closely with the right to be free and the freedom of speech. As an ordinary individual on the street, it is important that the right to protest is safeguarded from any elements that want to take it away.

The right to protest is also a potent political weapon, which when used properly can bring down monarchies and other forms of government. Mahatma Gandhi was an exceptional practitioner of this art and the results were ’empire shaking’. The Mahatma combined various forms of protest to effectively cripple the administration on one hand while on the other hand holding it up for public ridicule.

Unfortunately our current crop of politicians have not learnt this art from the Mahatma. Instead hartals have deteriorated into a show of strength and money. In an age when they do not need to resort to travelling in second class compartments across the length and bredth of the country to reach the masses, our politicians do not even take the trouble to inform the people for the rationale behind a hartal call. Instead they sit in their air-conditioned hotel rooms and decide on a mutually convinient date on which they will make inconvinient a the lives of the people the pretend to represent.

Hartals today consist of harassing the common man through bullying tactics. Thugs hired at the cost of a dinner and bottle of booze patrol the streets to stone any vehicle that dares to venture out. Establishments stay closed to avoid the risk of having their display windows and merchendise destroyed. Even an emergency trip to a hospital is fraught with danger. People with air or railway reservations arrive at terminals the previous night so that travel plans made months in advance will not be spoilt.

60 years of this bullshit means that people no longer care about what the issue for the hartal is, just that they are inconvinienced. No party in winning anybody over on the weight of an argument.

Sadly this form of enforcing a hartal is practiced by all political parties, so it too cannot be used as a differentiating factor when the polls come around.

The Indian people are being cheated wholesale and sadly there is no comsumer court to take this to.


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