This article has been written by Mayank Bhatt, a student at ILS Law College, Pune
The year 2020 has seen two of the biggest protests in India in the recent years, the year started with the protest against the Citizenship amendment bill and is ending with the protest against the new farm bills, some might even say that this year is the year of protests. The only thing that distinguishes a dictatorship from a democracy is that how well the people are able to express their dissent, how well the government listens to the people, how much the people are allowed to express and how the governments responds to criticism. People protest to remind the government that they are not the ones in actual power but it is the people who made them something, the actual holders of real power. In today’s busy world, nobody likes to protest, but sometimes the situation are such, that people are forced to leave everything for a cause. Justice Bhagwati in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India stated that, ‘if democracy means the government of the people, on the part of the people, it’s obvious that every citizen must have the right to participate in the democratic process & allow him to intelligently exercise his rights to make a choice, a free & general discussion of public issues is absolutely essential.’[i]
Right to protest
The framers of our constitution gave us a right to protest under the fundamental rights, the right to protest peacefully and right to speech and expression. The Supreme Court in Ramleela Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Bears, said that, ‘Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest that cannot be removed from arbitrary executive or legislative action.’[ii] People have a fundamental right to gather peacefully without arms, and if a government is stopping them from exercising their fundamental rights, it is somewhere killing democracy as it is unconstitutional, fundamental rights are the pillar of our constitution and if they are not respected by the government, then the government has no right to be in power. In India people have a right to protest peacefully, in the current scenario the government expects the people to take permission from them in order to protest against the government, why would a government give unconditional permission to protest against the government, so much power should not be given to the government, people should have a right to protest peacefully, when and wherever they want subject to certain reasonable restriction.
Protests in India
In the present day where a lot of protests are going on, one protest has caught the eye of everyone, The Farmers Protests in the country against the new Farm laws. A protest that started from Punjab and Haryana, has reached a new high. The government might say that they are allowing them to protest, but we are missing the bigger picture here, we see farmers protesting but the question is, do the farmers want to protest the way they have been forced to? The farmers never wanted to clash with the police or harm anyone or their protest to somehow harm public property, what they wanted was to protest in peace in the ramleela maidaan or to atleast enter Delhi. The protesters wanted to enter the capital of their country in order to show their dissatisfaction against the government. The ramleela maidan has a very significant place in our nation’s history of protests.The freedom struggle of India is all based on peaceful protest, like the Swadeshi movement or the Satyagrah movement, this protest is also a peaceful protest, there are many sections of the society like the government or the media that are trying to prove that the protests are politically motivated or have a hidden agenda, there are only two things that can motivate so many people to leave their homes, their farms and live in this cold weather on the streets, that is a sheer disagreement with the laws that the government has proposed or as according to some sections a super leader who has the power to brainwash thousands of people and make them protest. Currently in my opinion the farmers are not only protesting against the farm laws, but also for the right to protest. The supreme Court has recently held that people have a right to protest, but the protest should not be inconvenient to others. But in this case the farmers never wanted to protest in the place that they are protesting right now that is the Delhi border, they had requested the government to protest freely, but the government stated that a mass gathering would be detremential to the ongoing conditions, but the people have a fundamental right to protest and right to protest peacefully.
Dying out of protests
If we look at the past fifteen years there have been many protests in our country, most of which died out due to lack of media coverage, or the government failing to respond to the protest. In most of the cases as soon as a protest becomes large or detremential to the government, the government instead of resolving the problem tries to break the protest, the same happened with the Saheen Bagh protest, Protest by Baba Ramdev in Ramleela maidaan, to cite a few big ones, the government will surely try to break the ongoing protest too, and as we can see it in the media as to how they are trying to link the ongoing protests with Khalistaan movement or terrorists, currently the government does not have any concrete evidence for that, strong enough to break the protest, so the government is taking its time, and hoping that the winter will break the farmers and soon the people will forget about the ongoing protest and the protest will die out due to lack of public support.
Role of media
The media in our country is so much controlled by the government, that in order to break the support of the ongoing protests, the media instead of showing the side of the protesters, are asking counter questions on the news and are seen protecting the government’s decision. The reason why the protest by Anna Hazare was successful, was that the media during his protest was on his side, they were impartial, and showed both sides of the story and asked the people to choose what they thought was right or wrong. One of the main reason that the protests die out and the government breaks it, is that the media slowly and slowly stops covering the protests, and as the media is the only way that the people can know about the protests, they think that the protests have died out and so the support from the people also dies out when the media stops covering the protests.
The reason that the government does not want people protesting is that it does not reflect a positive image in the eyes of the foreign governments and their standings are weaken infront of the world. There are sometimes some hidden agendas of the people in power, that stops them from taking back something that they have done. But most of the times it is the government that does not want to admit that it has done something wrong, by taking back the laws that it has made, it wants to doge the ridicule and does not want to prove that it can also make a mistake.
In a democracy freedom to express oneself is very important. If people are not allowed to show their dissatisfaction towards the government, that government becomes very powerful and also could become a dictatorship. People should be allowed to protest peacefully, if the government keeps on interrupting protests in the country, or refuses to grant permission for future protests, there soon will be a protest to protest freely.
Disclaimer: This article is an original submission of the Author,
NLR does not hold any liability arising out of this article.