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Defining Limits

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The ‘nosey-parker’ politicians in foreign lands who have declared their support for the right to peaceful protest in India do not seem too concerned about the rights of other citizens, such as the right to pursue a livelihood, access to food, free movement, protection from intimidation, not being held hostage, etc. It may be noted that they are not so articulate about nations which can hit back in malevolent ways that democracies like India do not resort to. Democracies are expected to abide by higher standards, while other systems are accepted as they are, irrespective of their fundamental denial of human rights, both, constitutionally and socially.

Whatever happens with the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi, serious questions have emerged about the ability of the Indian system to prevent threats to its internal security from such manipulation. The mobs surrounding Delhi are choking off essential supplies such as food and medicine; reports are already coming in of a slide in industrial production owing to the disruption in the supply chain, with a large number of workers being laid off. Having seriously wounded the economy of Punjab, the same is being done to Delhi. All this when there is already a national emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic! Whose cause does this serve, if not that of India’s enemies, China and Pakistan? With consequences such as this, how can the protest be considered peaceful?

And, if the Government seeks to do its job by clearing the blockade, the inevitable violence will be declared atrocities committed by the State! It’s a Catch-22 situation which opposition parties are reveling in, pleased that it would lead to embarrassment for the Government, irrespective of the dangers inherent in such politics.

There is need for legislative clarity on such activity. Can India’s security be compromised by political agitations? Can siege be laid to the seats of legislative authority, irrespective of any other consideration? There are conventions in democracies that defined these lines. Unfortunately, the new age social media consciousness does not respect these boundaries. There is need, therefore, for a consensus across political lines that would pre-empt attempts at ‘choking’ India’s lifelines. Also, methods need to be adopted to prevent tactics that invite violence in the effort to project a community or cause as a victim. Hopefully, this will become a priority for the Government in its agenda for the future.