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Current ramifications of activism in India

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Activism is the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.

Judicial activism is not backed by the Constitution; it is a product devised solely by the judiciaries in some countries. When the judiciary oversteps the line of the powers given to it, in the name of judicial activism, it becomes judicial overreach. One can say that the judiciary then begins to nullify the concept of separation of powers specified in the Constitution. Black’s Law Dictionary defines judicial activism as a “philosophy of judicial decision-making whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions.”

This issue has come to limelight in the context of Sabarimala agitation where devotees, the head priest family, the Pandalam royals, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with other Hindu outfits, have opposed the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple on the grounds of violating the essential character of the temple amounting to interfering in purely ‘religious’ matter.

Social activism is an intentional action with the aim to bring about changes in social or political issues. These actions could be in support of, or opposition to, one side of a contentious dispute. The word ‘activism’ is often used synonymously with protest or dissent, but activism can stem from any number of political orientations and take a wide range of forms, from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, simply shopping ethically, rallies and street marches, direct action, or even guerrilla tactics

Sabarimala issue is one case of social activism. Those who oppose Supreme Court (SC) judgement say: A temple is the Aasthanam (abode) of the Hindu deity housed there. There are specific and particular rites and rituals for each temple and these have been coming down for generations and sanctioned by Shastra. Each temple and the deity have its own particular conception, beliefs and legends along with the rites and rituals, observed for generations. For Hindus to honour those in letter and spirit is not just a right but indeed also an obligation.

Activists now want to precipitate the issue. Right to Pray’s Trupti Desai says that she will be visiting the temple on November 17 as there is no stay on the SC’s earlier verdict which allowed all women entry. Over 500 women in the 10-50 years age group have registered themselves to visit the shrine.

The Bhopal tragedy gave environmental activists and factory enforcement agencies a major cause for concern and this led to a boost in NGO activity. In cases where cities developed primarily around industries (mostly textile and dyeing units, chemical plants, or factories), the question of their safety became critical. Extensive media coverage and people’s movements pressurized governments to regularly inspect industries and factories in cities and towns.

Sterlite Copper unit has been in operation in Tuticorin since its inception in 1997 and has been dogged by controversies throughout. But at the heart of the fresh protest at the unit, is a brownfield expansion of the plant, entailing a doubling of the capacity of the smelter to 8,00,000 tonnes per year. Protesters are against the pollution from the copper plant, including issues relating to disposal of copper waste and effluents from the operational unit, demanding its permanent closure.

The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down the plant, which accounts for a 40 per cent share in India’s annual copper production of 10 lakh tonnes, could have a downstream impact on around 800 small and medium units in the electrical sector. Further, the shutdown of the Tuticorin plant could lead to direct and indirect job losses of up to 50,000. The shutdown is also likely to impact India’s copper exports as around 1.6 lakh tonnes of Tuticorin plant’s production is sold internationally.

The animal rights movement, sometimes called the animal liberation movement, animal personhood, or animal advocacy movement, is a social movement which seeks an end to the rigid moral and legal distinction drawn between human and non-human animals, an end to the status of animals as property, and an end to their use in the research, food, clothing, and entertainment industries.

Tigress Avni, believed to have killed 13 people in the last two years, was recently shot dead by sharpshooter Asgar Ali in the Borati forest in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district as part of an operation. The analysis by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) said the tranquilizer dart was inserted into the tigress’ body after it died. It also concluded the animal was not shot in self-defence as she was not facing the hunter. Both aspects constitute a violation of SC orders.

In another incident, a FIR was lodged at the Sehramau police station in Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh against six persons and some unidentified villagers after a tiger was allegedly mowed down by a tractor.

Activism has come to India following practices of activists in developed world. There are powerful NGOs acting as activists like Green Peace and Amnesty International. They have their Indian operations or connections with most Indian activists. In any case, foreign funding is available aplenty. The activists sometimes appear to be rather adamant n prone to confronts and often seem to be distanced from the local culture and traditions and politicized.

Amnesty India’s office in Bengaluru was raided on 24 October, two years after the ED launched investigations into the alleged violations of foreign funding rules. The outfit, which claims to be a defender of human rights, was recently accused of sedition after it gave a platform to Kashmir secessionists at an event, reports said. Anti-India slogans were raised at the event, it was alleged.

The writer is a commentator and an author.

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