By Basil Fernando –
When people are hurt by the actions of authorities, they protest. When the hurt is deep and widespread it could give rise to collective modes of protest. Three such protest movements are now taking place in Asia. One is in Hong Kong, where the protesters are young students, supported by parents and a large section of society. They are protesting against proposed curriculum changes, which the government claims have been introduced to cultivate positive moral values and patriotism. However, students and parents see these as a to move to brainwash the young and to undermine Hong Kong’s deeply held democratic values.
Another protest is going on amongst the university students and their teachers in Sri Lanka, against the attempt by the government to reduce costs in education and limit the opportunities for education under the guise of modernization. They demand that the percentage of expenditure on the education budget should be increased to 6% of the GDP. The government is resisting this protest by closing down all the universities indefinitely.
A third protest of the most unusual nature is taking place in India, where a group of indigenous people have submerged themselves neck deep in water for over 12 days now, protesting against eviction from their land without compensation. They are being evicted for the construction of the Omkareshwar Dam, and they are protesting against the illegal increase in the water level, beyond what is allowed by the Supreme Court of India. There protest is called Jal Satyagrah.
In this unique form of protest held in East Nimaar region in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh state, the villagers have been sitting within the dam’s catchment area, claiming that they are willing to drown to death rather than be denied their rightful claim for adequate rehabilitation for the lands they have lost.
All three protests are supported by large sections of people, who see the protests as justified.
All these protests are conducted in a most peaceful manner and are spontaneous movements. The protesters are persons who are directly afflicted by the problem who feel compelled to act.
In all three instances, governments are slow to address the demands of the protesters. However, such powerful protests cannot be ignored. Thanks to modern technology, these are no longer are local protests; the whole world is watching.