Other States

We shall take back our streets, say activists

A number of activists on Thursday spoke about the importance of protests in a democracy and said that “we shall take back our streets”.

The speakers included author and activist Arundhati Roy, advocates Prashant Bhushan and Sanjay Hegde, United Against Hate co-founder Nadeem Khan, theorist Nivedita Menon, activist Bezwada Wilson and Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav.

The panel said that “the state and the police” have begun to criminalise protests. “Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone, said the Supreme Court. Was the Dandi March taken along designated routes? Was Jallianwala Bagh the massacre of a gathering by permit in a designated spot?” Concerned Citizens’ Collective said.

The panel stated that democracy doesn’t mean elections alone but it’s exercised when one can speak freely included in public spaces. “Why do people protest? Because they experience injustice and inequality, and as long as States remain unresponsive and mute, people need to be heard and to be seen,” they said adding that protests have affected social, political and legislative change.

“Jab sadkein suni ho jaati hai, toh sansad awaara ho jaata hai,” said Mr. Yadav. “Before you charge me of contempt, let me tell you that this is Ram Manohar Lohia’s quote. It talks about the deep relation between democracy and contestation”. He also said that it is unfortunate that some of the observations of our judges today are only emboldening the stifling of dissent.

Mr. Khan said that same police who claimed to have been unable to open the pattern lock of the accused in the case of forced disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed in JNU, are now confiscating hundreds of phones of activists to frame them for attending protests.

“Over the last few years, he said, dissent is being muzzled, tampered and violated. But I am hopeful. Our generation fought, future generations will also follow,” said Mr. Hegde.

Ms. Roy said, “It is humiliating to live in an atmosphere where people are constantly marinated in hatred.”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 3:20:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/we-shall-take-back-our-streets-say-activists/article32922797.ece

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