The Power of Peaceful Protest

India has witnessed a rise in public protests in the past few years. From candlelight marches to student rallies and spontaneous sit-ins, citizens have peacefully taken to the streets to demand justice, equality, and better governance. They have asserted their right to dissent by upholding the Gandhian ideals of ahimsa and satyagraha. They have wielded non-violence as a powerful weapon.

The most recent is the ongoing protest by farmers against the new farm laws. In September, more than 200 national and international scholars, academicians and artists signed a statement in support of former JNU student leader Umar Khalid, who is under arrest for his alleged role in the February Delhi riots. Meanwhile, an eighty-two-year-old Bilkis Bano, who earned the moniker of Dadi of Shaheen Bagh during the anti-CAA–NRC protest, has been featured in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2020and hailed as a powerful symbol of peaceful resistance across the world.

It is not always necessary to be violent in order to bring about change. Peaceful protests are often a more powerful method.

Inquilab, a collection of speeches and letters, illustrates the importance of dissent and the power of peaceful protest.

 Some excerpts from the book:

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal at the massive Anna Andolan rally in Delhi in 2011

Anna Hazare, Anna Andolan rally, Delhi, 2011

‘Many countries are built on the strength of the youth. My place of hope is the youth. I have full faith that the youth of this country have awakened. A bright future for this society and for this nation is not very far. We will ensure this bright future.’

The peaceful protests which took the world by storm following the sad demise of rape-victim, Nirbhaya

Kavita Krishnan, at a protest after Nirbhaya gangrape, Delhi, 2012

‘After witnessing protests everywhere in the city today, shouldn’t the government have learnt at least this much, that our anger will not be doused by water cannons, or beaten out of us with lathi-charges. It is shameful that the government and the police who are ever willing to provide arguments defending the actions of rapists should now be ready to attack those fighting for the rights of women.’

Kanhaiya Kumar, then JNUSU president, addressing students and teachers at the JNU campus in March 2016

Kanhaiya Kumar, after his release from Tihar Jail, JNU campus, 2016

‘If we establish a dialogue with those who have a scientific temper, we will be able to get the azaadi that we are demanding – from hunger and poverty, from oppression and exploitation, for the rights of Dalits, tribals, women and minorities – we will not give up till we get that azaadi. And we will ensure that this azaadi will come to this country via this very Constitution, this very Parliament, and this very legal system – that is our dream.’

As part of the anti-CAA agitation in 2019, nation-wide mobilisations and historic sit-ins made global news

Mahua Moitra, maiden speech in Parliament, 2019

‘You do not even tolerate questioning, let alone dissent. The spirit of dissent is integral to India. You cannot shackle us.’

Chandra Shekhar Aazad, open letter from Tihar Jail during anti-CAA–NRC protest, 2019

‘I am ready to sacrifice everything to defend India’s Constitution. All I hope from my fellow Bahujans is that they never stop this movement, and prevent it from turning violent because this movement is huge and violence will weaken it.’

As India struggles with incidents of mob lynching, religious vigilantism is taking a dangerous turn

Ramachandra Guha, lecture ‘In Defense of India’s Pluralism’, Bengaluru, 2019 

‘If the hegemony of Hindutva continues, it will damage and destroy us economically, politically, and culturally. We must resist it non-violently, patiently and steadily, and we must restore the egalitarian, plural, ethical values on which we were founded. And as we carry on this fight, I would like to say two things. We don’t need a political party to do it for us. Every five years we go for someone whom we dislike less than the others. Many a times I have held my nose and cast my vote. We must not fall into the trap of letting our democracy be reduced to a once-in-five-years affair – that’s what the prime minister wants, that’s what the home minister wants and that’s what many chief ministers want – Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal. They all want to win an election and be unaccountable for five years. But citizenship is an everyday affair, and we must carry on this long, arduous and hopefully not-so-lonely fight to recover the values and principles of our Republic.’

To read more, pre-order your copy of Inquilab today - https://amzn.to/34nNMs4

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