Government Meets Its Match In Our New-Age Satyagrahis

Two recent widespread public protest movements have rekindled memories of Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha. One was the anti-CAA movement of 2019-20 and the other is the farmers’ movement of 2020-21. Both peaceful and democratic mass movements against laws introduced by the Narendra Modi government.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the three Farm laws of 2020 triggered debate and discontent amongst large swathes of our people. The protest against the CAA had wide support from all sections of our population irrespective of caste, class, gender or religious beliefs. Yet it couldn’t move the Modi government enough to relent.

On the other hand, the protest by farmers were primarily driven by farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh and by opposition leaders. Yet it succeeded in forcing the hands of the Modi government to finally repeal the laws. Shaheen Bagh and Singhu attracted the nation’s attention, as had Champaran and Dandi.

We can spend days discussing the pros and cons of both sets of laws. However, what is striking is that the protests were spontaneous and dogged. No amount of bad-mouthing by the government’s agents or the pliable mainstream media could deter the protesters. The government stooped pretty low in trying to paint the men and women participating in the peaceful protests as anti-nationals, pro-Pakistanis, tukde tukde gang, pro-Khalistanis, etc. This targeted vilification campaign resulted in many neutral, undecided citizens forming a wrong opinion about well-meaning citizens exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest against laws they felt were not in the country’s interest.

Ultimately, the government had to step back in the face of popular people’s movement. The rules to implement the CAA have been kept on hold and there seems to be no headway. It has been almost two years since the CAA was notified and rules ought to be framed within six months of such notification. The ‘chronology’ of rules following the enactment of a law has fallen flat on its face!

Similarly, the three farm laws have been repealed. None less than PM Modi had to inform the nation about the government’s decision on Friday morning. Undoubtedly, the fear of being wiped out in the UP Assembly elections has brought about this sudden departure in stance. But what is important is that the scenario of adverse electoral results in UP has been primarily brought about by the farmers’ movement.

An arrogant and conceited government has met its match. Modern satyagrahis have captured the imagination of citizens and have shattered the ego of people in power. This is good for a healthy democracy. Violent protests and bulldozing governments are both recipes for disaster in a democracy. Peaceful protesters have rekindled hopes and revived the memories of our long struggle for independence.

Satyagrahis across different eras are inspiring. They are extremely strong too. Let no one try to weaken them through threats and slander. On the contrary, an evolved leadership should always aim to go in for wider consultations with all stakeholders to avoid situations of confrontation. If they fail to do that, our new age Satyagrahis would force them to do so!

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