According to Wikipedia, the Occupy Movement started in New York on September 17, 2011 to address the issues of ‘Wealth Inequality, Political Corruption, and Corporate influence of government’. Some of the characteristics of the movement were ‘Occupation, Non-violent protest, Civil Disobedience, Picketing, Demonstrations, Internet Activism’. The Occupy movement spread to over 20 countries, but never made it to India. But I believe it was an Indian who first captured the attention of the world with the idea of a non-violent, civil-disobedience movement.
In the early 1900s as the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule gained momentum, several Indian leaders called for ‘home rule’, signing petitions and holding public meetings. But they weren’t taken seriously and the atrocities on the Indian multitude continued unabated. Then in September 1920, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi called on all Indians to boycott all British manufactured goods and withdraw from all offices, factories and schools run by the British.
Thousands rallied in support causing an unprecedented magnitude of disorder that challenged and shocked the foreign rulers. This was the ‘Non-Cooperation movement’, a nation-wide, non-violent protest, a watershed moment in the history of the Indian freedom struggle. Other non-violent movements- the Salt Satyagraha and the Quit India movement followed, both orchestrated by Mahatma Gandhi. It was again his commitment to non-violence that made him call off these protests when it was marred by a few violent demonstrations. But it set the stage for the formation of a free and independent India in 1947.
Sixty-four years later, another Indian, a social activist and self-proclaimed Gandhian, Kishan Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, initiated an anti-corruption movement. On 5thApril 2011(well before the Ocuppy movement), he went on a hunger-strike demanding a strong anti-corruption bill, the’ Jan Lokpal’ (People’s Ombudsman) to be passed in parliament. Soon, the nation was gripped in a patriotic fervour as thousands came out in support, holding rallies and sporting ‘I am Anna’ caps and T-shirts. The ‘India against corruption’ campaign caught the media’s attention, calling the movement ‘the second freedom struggle’ and fuelled the people’s certitude that he would redeem the nation from corruption. Eighteen months later, the ‘struggle’, riddled with controversies, is limping in bits and spurts.
With more governments becoming corrupt and turning a blind eye to the common man’s woes, protests seem to have become a platform for the denizens to air their grievances. Although, over a period of time, most protests lose steam and credibility due to lack of consensus and/or strong leadership, unclear or unreasonable demands and controversial methods of protest.
Solutions are not obvious. But we aren’t looking for Utopia, just a corruption-free , transparent government that ensures that the taxes we pay go towards progress of the nation and not into the pockets of a few chosen ones!
All pictures taken from Wikipedia.
This post was written in respone to the Daily post’s weekly writing challenge ‘Mind the Gap: Occupy Movement’