Thursday, May 18, 2006

It’s a season of protests!

In this Sunday’s Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi writes that Indians love to protest. Give them a cause and they will protest it! Can’t refute that now. Can we? Given that its has been a season of protests. From Narmada Andolan to Reservation policy to da Vinci Code – there are protests galore. When I thought about why we protest so much, I couldn’t help thinking of my history teacher in class ten. She had categorically told us during a bandh that the bandhs and protest were the legacy of the father of the Nation himself! Mahatma Gandhi in his non violent protest routes, showed us Indians, the power of Satyagrah – when the protestors stopped work and sang bhajans under huge banyan trees. No doubt that it served the purpose. The British factories were closed and the Raaj suffered losses. The method continues still, though the loss is borne by Indians. And so, we learnt to protest from Gandhiji (but forgot to learn his discretion on what to protest about!) and are now protesting away to glory!

The three most high profile protests in the last quarter have been Medha Patkar led Narmada Bachao Andolan, the medical students led protest against reservation and the protest to ban the release of Da Vinci code in India. I have to say about the protesting catholic groups that I am quite impressed by the way the protest has been carried out. Signature campaigns and reaching out to the right authorities is much better than shouting slogans and burning effigies. And now they are ok with the release provided it carries a disclaimer that the film is a work of fiction, which for fans of the book comes as a relief!

The med students used a more active approach. What with protest rallies all over the place. The laathi charge in Mumbai was an unfortunate incident and the YFE (Youth for Equality) is enraged about it. You can read their blog here. I heard a radio show yesterday in which 3 YFE members were participating and two things they said made real good sense.

First is that they are not against reservation per say, but they want the reservation to be economic need based. They want a committee to define the deprivation & economic need and allot reserved seats to those who really need it and will benefit from it as against the creamy layer who just take benefit of the system. The point they made is that someone can be deprived of education at the secondary and higher secondary levels, and thus need reservation to get into a grad level or a professional course. But once the said person is in it, the same facilities are extended to him or her as an ‘upper caste’ student. Then how can this person still claim deprivation and seek admission in the post-grad courses? I agree completely! Now, to placate the protesting students, the govt is now saying that the number of seats will be increased. Tell me, will that not load the educational institutes? Will they be able to cope up with the additional load on their resources??? With many institutes unable to provide the basic infrastructure and facilities to their existing base, we are only going to degrade the quality of education by increasing the number of seats. Has the government not thought of this??? I doubt that they would have missed out on this point. If they still wish to increase the seats, them are they not worried about the quality of education that we impart to the coming generation?

The second point that the YFE made was regarding the reservation in jobs. Now the govt can increase the number of seats in colleges, but how will they generate jobs? And imagine what it will do to the morale of the country if deserving candidates are passed over because of their caste! And al those of us who think this probably does not concern us, think again… will it never affect you, even in the smallest of ways? And if you still say no, remember that

“The consequences of our actions is so complicated, so diverse that predicting the future is very difficult business indeed”

J K Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So if you feel about these issues and feel they will not concern you in any way, don’t be certain about it. It may affect you – so speak out about it. That’s the least you can do.