Social peace and democratic set-up in India is threatened by the agitations and strikes, some call it a prelude to new thinking and new sensibility. Ethical foundation of human behavior is crumbling down. Every aspirant for political office employs force to make his presence felt. Naturally, democracy and the democratic spirit is in danger. The strikes in the factory, the suspension of work in the national services and the organized protests have tarnished the image of political institutions. It is felt that the violent agitations would shake the faith of the people in democracy. Does it mean there should be no right to protest ?
If the people feel that the Government is becoming dictatorial and over-riding their wishes, democracy demands that they should protest. In a truly democratic State if the majority of the people do not like the Government, it should bow out of the office. Does it imply that the people have the right to protest if they feel that the Government is not acting in accordance with their wishes ? In fact we got independence through agitation politics and in such politics personality plays the most important role and political traditions centre round it. Leaders become guides for the masses and the political education of the people is limited to the advice given by the leaders. Obviously this approach is in agreement with our tendency of worshipping heroes.
That is why we have been misguided by the political leaders. Moreover, political parties in India did not come into being as organized groups of the people to fight for civil liberties but as a natural corollary of the system adopted by us. Evidently, their aim is to capture power and they do not brother about their methods. That is why the Opposition parties in India start employing undemocratic methods for coming in power. They incite the people to violence. Obviously, under such circumstances we cannot held to have any right to protest ; protest itself will frustrate its own purpose because prostituted protest prostitutes its aim.
Gandhiji believed, “Real Swaraj will come not by acquisition of authorities by a few but acquisition capacity by all to resist authority when opposed”. At another place he asserts, “Civil disobedience is the inherent right of a citizen”. Gandhiji distinguished civil disobedience from criminal disobedience ; the latter being violent disobedience. Violence disrupts life, it dislocates the working of administrative machinery. Our protests often become violent and anti-social elements come to the force and create the conditions of insecurity. Naturally, the common man cannot lead a peaceful life and the State no longer remains an organization to protect the life and property of the people.
The methods employed for the protest should be definitely democratic Democracy as a political mechanism in India needs democratic culture. Our democracy is based upon semi-anarchist freedom of thought. Politically and mechanically our society has been hierarchical and rational groups and classes restricted social morality. This created social cleavage. In fact Indian nationalism determines the democratic set-up.
Naturally organized violence even if it is difficult to achieve unjustified in a democratic State. We are still to consolidate our democracy and develop faith in its efficacy so violence should not be tolerated. But violence cannot be killed through violence. Only Gandhian way can contain it. In fact it is necessary that we do our level best to adopt some better methods, at least democratic methods, for protest against the actions of the people in power.
If there is no dissent in a democratic State it is not true democracy. People must have the liberty to speak out their minds and persuasion on the part of the people in power can help in setting the circumstances right. In other words right to protest is adherent in the democratic set-up, but rights have their corresponding obligations and so one should not cross the legitimate bounds of our rights.