For the past few months a section of our population has been holding the rest of the country hostage. Exploiting the rights guaranteed to them by virtue of India being a functional democracy – freedom of expression, right to protest – abusing them to actively undermine democracy itself. When a bill is passed by a democratically elected government with majority in the parliament, it becomes a law of the land. Those who don’t agree with such a law have various democratic recourse open to them. These include challenging the constitutionality of the law in the Supreme Court and/or mobilizing public opinion against the law to influence the government. Peaceful protests are an accepted method for such a mobilization.
But what we have witnessed in the past few months steps beyond the bounds of democratic methods mentioned above. Violent protests, arson, instigation of minorities, rabid fear mongering and rabble rousing to the extent of urging minorities to physically cut of the North East from rest of the country. Even the so called peaceful protest at Shaheen Bagh are causing a great deal of inconvenience and losses to other citizens like commuters and traders, thus infringing on their rights. The ‘protestors’ have, through their actions and even statements, vociferously expressed their lack of faith in any of the democratic institutions of the country – be it the parliament, the government, the judiciary or the constabulary.
So ironically, the fear (without any substantive basis except wild imaginings and rumours fueled by those with vested interests) in such an environment the bulk of people, those who elected the government and repose trust in it, have started to feel disenfranchised. Right to protest has been carried to an extent where it has become disruption, and has started interfering with the rights of others. There have been instances of major protests in the past few years – like the Anna Hazare Lokpal protests and the OROP protests by armed forces veterans – wherein the protestors voiced their demands without disrupting normal lives or resorting to violence. Those feeling aggrieved by the passage of the CAA should emulate these and protest without disruption or violence.
The terrible events in North-East Delhi the past few days are a chilling trailer of what the slippery slope down the anarchy route could lead upto. If rule of law is allowed to fall by the side, with neither the government nor the judiciary willing to take a firm stance to enforce it, law of the jungle is what prevails. We, as citizens, can not and should not allow this to happen, irrespective of our religion, caste, creed or political leanings. The only way to ensure this is to stick to democratic, constitutional methods even if we want to protest, and to refrain from getting swayed by political or religious rhetoric that is being used by vested interests from various sides to ignite passions. Because, at the end of the day, whether its the lives that are lost, or the property that is damaged, the loss has to be borne by ordinary citizens like us.