WHEN 'PROTESTS' ARE NOT
The horrendous story of the
gang-rape of a twenty three year old medical student in New
Delhi India, and the protests in the aftermath, play in the
manner of a surreal version of a Bollywood movie. Rightly, the
right thinking citizens of India in New Delhi and other parts of
the country, are in mass agitation mode, asking for exactly what
one does not know --- but certainly for a halt to any such
occurrences in the future.
It's a real Rule of Law crisis in India in one sense, because
people that feel threatened in public transport and in the
public sphere, are not obviously being protected by the law or
the law enforcement agencies in the country.
But the protests in India are spontaneous, and they are
manifestations of genuine public outrage. People want results,
they are not baying for blood. To that extent, these deeply felt
manifestations of public outrage, are an object lesson on how
public protests should be done, if they are to be a tool in
affecting reform in the system.
It is a different story when protests are orchestrated by
politically vested interests. That is the bane of so called
civil society agitation in this country, by contrast.
Almost all the protestors here, seem to be bought and paid
for by foreign donors, or filthy rich locals pursuing personal
political ambitions. The so called impeachment protests are a
case in point. The details need not be repeated here, as they
were dealt with extensively in the editorial in this space
The salient aspect in the comparison between how protests
play out in these two countries however, is the fact that the
protestors in India are issue-based, and are therefore much more
result oriented. The protests against the lack of security in
the Indian public transportation system, and the violence
against women in Indian cities are about just that - the
ineffectuality of law enforcement - and don't transmogrify as a
lunge into some kind of pathetic political movement that seeks
to propel disgruntled men into the seats of power!
These are genuine people's protests, whereas the protests in
Sri Lanka are about desperados trying to leapfrog into
prominence on the backs of poor people who are misled into
taking up causes that they do not relate to, or identify with.
Then, on the other hand, civil society in India, comprised of
intellectuals does not treat issue based protests as national
calamities, and the opinion makers and activists are eminently
able to keep matters in perspective, whereas in this country
sections of civil society remain perpetually catatonic.
Strangely, this is why protests in India are more effective
in the long run; our civil society loud-hailer addicts have been
raising cries of wolf for so long that they are guaranteed not
to be taken seriously if and when calamity does strike.
The discourse in India is much more civil however, as a
result of the fact that issues are not overtly politicized by
parasitical smooth operators. Watch NDTV on the issue of the
gang-rape repercussions, and one could see that those who appear
are sane and rational people, not politically motivated.
Sri Lanka is an object lesson of what seems to happen when an
opposition has for long been ineffectual and in fact,
dysfunctional. It is not the government that has to be blamed
for a cranky civil society in Sri Lanka that seems to go into
apoplexy at the drop of a hat, preventing genuine agitation on
real issues such as happens in India.
It is the opposition that has to be blamed for things coming
to this pass. When there is no real organized political
opposition that is effective, it leaves room for various
charlatans and purveyors of mumbo-jumbo to take their place. The
fiasco of the 'impeachment protest' should open the eyes of all
--- to the fact that those such as J C Weliamuna who is so
transparently foreign funded, do not give a two cents about
glaring integrity issues about the Chief Justice but instead
stands with her, for instance. By far, these are people who give
a bad name to citizens' protests. Take a cue from India,
people's protests should be people's and not those of vested