Gandhi on Protest
Gandhi on Protest

As I write this (written this morning), the protesters at Marina in Chennai are being dispersed with power, without their will. Why?

Wrong cause?

Two things come out as reasons immediately. It’s predominantly against Indian state and espousing Cause of Tamil Nation. Few examples of anti-state anecdotal statements are provided to us to justify dispersing the crowd. Be that as it may and without any question let’s accept what they are accused of. What are the police doing? Closing blind eyes to anti-state activities? If they can’t do anything and didn’t do anything doesn’t it mean that it cannot be prosecuted? So there are analogies floating around where those handful of people among crowds of hundreds of thousands as cancer or parasites. We don’t kill the body for cancer. We don’t kill the body for the parasites. So, is anyone who disagrees with us is cancer? Or anyone who verbally espouses resentment with Indian state is cancer? Does it mean that we do not have any grief or grouse against the state? Yes, we all have. If that be the case, who are we to choose which is the right language? If the police think that it tantamount to sedition or incitement of violence or public indecency, arrest them. Get an order from a magistrate. This is called as the due process of law.

Unpalatable obscenity in mass protest is not the reason to evict protesters. By nature, any mass protest is like that, an amalgamation of many things. Some are refined, some are unrefined and crude. Some are sauve, some are of earth. Some are decent in choice of words, some are indecent. This doesn’t take their right to protest.

We have achieved our cause:

Another logic being provided is that we have achieved our cause. What cause? The slogan for majority was jallikattu. Like Mikhail Bhaktin once said, the protests were more of carnival than the protests we have seen in many places. We have received an ordinance which will be turned into law. Agreed.
Who are we to say that those handful of protesters cannot ask for permanent law by central government? Now, have we become the judge of the right cause? If so, we are the problem.
Was there violence? No.
Was there incitement to violence? No.
Was there calls against state? Maybe. Or yes.
Did it violate any law? If yes, arrest.
Who decides which cause is the right cause? My cause may not be your cause. Appreciate to respect others’ cause even if we disagree.

The majority reason:

Another reason touted is that majority of the crowd is not there. It is only few hundreds. Few years back only 17 people were protesting for jallikattu. So, shall we ignore then because it didn’t stand against the majority of eight crore Tamil? Even if there is only one person who is shouting slogans we must, I repeat, we must support his right to protest. What is more important? Is it the number or the cause? The cause here being someone’s right to protest peacefully. If we will support only numbers, then what are we?

Takeaways from the protest’s end:

We continued as long as the government supported the protest. Remember, every political party supported peaceful protest. But the moment the establishment became uncomfortable, protesters were asked to leave. Why? Can’t they demand more? Are protesters beggars that they can’t ask more? Are they not citizens to demand more? The true test of any protest is not when the establishment supports us but when we oppose them, making them uncomfortable, asking questions that cannot be asked, breaking taboo and pushing boundaries. That is called protest. We had a poet, Nakkeeran who let himself burnt by God but not budge in his stand.

Two thousand years ago, Kannagi, in her damning argument against the King addressed him with ‘thera manna.’ There cannot be more vulgar or obscene word in poetry addressed to a King. We have evolved, so are our obscenities. So, under the Kannagi statue, our youth or let’s say anti-socials have been forcefully evicted for using obscenity? And we, who have no presence but for online righteousness sit and judge them without offering our support? We have a narrow definition of what the state and love for the nation is. Shouting slogans against India is not sedition. What did Anna do six decades back? Are we going to disown whatever he said? Even if someone raises slogan against India, it’s our duty to make him believe in the idea of India. Not beat him and cement his conviction that what he believed in was true. We failed in this miserably. Tamil separatism is an unspoken but open secret in our state. If Tamil separatism is unacceptable in sloganeering, which I think is unacceptable, then our first call must be to change the name of our state. Nadu means Nation, Tamil Nadu is Tamil’s Nation or Nation of Tamils. By having this name to our state, what are we trying to say? If we cannot speak against the state, why not we live in China? Or Saudi Arabia?
Also, is our nation so fragile that some handful of sloganeering anti-socials can destroy it?

Are we worthy to be called brave Tamils when the first sight of pressure from government broke our unity? Are we worthy to be called as inheritors of Kannagi’s legacy who dared the king with what could have been an obscenity 2000 years back? Are we the same Tamils who said ‘yaadhum oore’ but now want to put a boundary to our humanity?
We definitely are not that Tamils whom we think we come from. At best, we are cowards and at worse, we are chameleons who will go with the wind.

Four scores and seven years ago, we adopted a constitution. In few days, we will celebrate Republic day, honouring constitution but irony will remain that it was killed by denying people their right to peaceful protest. It was someone whom we disagree with today. It can be us tomorrow. It goes on to question are “We the People” or “We the Peoples” of India?
Its prophetic of B.R.Ambedkar to have said, “I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution. Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot.” (Constituent Assembly Debates – 25th November, 1949 http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/vol11p11.htm )

Long back someone rightly said, “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it!”

Let’s take a day to think what kind of society we want to build.


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