I am unable to be in Delhi at this time. But while I am here, Kathputli colony and its people are fighting the authorities to save there settlement from demolition. Here is coverage about the recent developments from the Time magazine blog.
I returned to Rio de Janeiro on May 20th to begin ethnographic fieldwork for my PhD in Urban Geography. Within weeks, tens of thousands of Brazilians had taken to the streets in São Paulo, initially led by the small band of urban activists known as Movimento Passe Livre (The Free Fare Movement). By June 21st one million were marching on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of thousands more demonstrating in 100 cities throughout the country.
I attended the first marches in Rio and dozens since. I began to observe, participate, photograph, take notes, and record interactions between protestors, bystanders, union activists, and police officers. I’ve closely followed public debates in mainstream, alternative and intellectual media, tracked various activist-leaders through social media, and discussed the protests at every possible social opportunity.
Over the coming months I’ll share some of my experiences and observations about the urban unrest from…
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In this interview, Amartya Sen talks about a number of things, I particularly agree with his reading of the Anna Hazare movement. I agree that the movement’s reading of corruption is a little superficial, but at the same time I think that the movement in itself is a good step. At least its brought to the fore the problem of corruption and the fact that many of us feel helpless against it. Like Sen, I don’t particularly agree with their methods, there is a very strong possibility that Hazare will become the boy who cried “wolf”.
In the interview I think that Sen is trying to get at a very important question– What causes corruption? Its not just government officials that are corrupt, in some ways its the entire system, a system that we are all part of. And as he points out, its a system that rewards corruption. I wish he had elaborated on this more.
Whether you support Anna Hazare or not, you will like the following article from Business Standard.
Barun Roy: Arrogance before the fall?
The Ramlila Maidan may give way to a Tahrir Square if our ruling class continues to disregard public opinion
Barun Roy / January 12, 2012, 0:33 IST
A common theme that ran through the recent parliamentary debate on the Lok Pal Bill was, simply put, this: street agitations can’t be allowed to decide government policies nor usurp the constitutional duty of lawmakers. It was an arrogant position to take, considering that Anna Hazare was only reflecting popular will and under the Constitution, people matter above everything else. By denigrating Hazare, politicians were actually belittling public opinion that exists outside the purview of government and Parliament and, thus, in a fundamental sense, devaluing the very spirit of the Constitution.
In their arrogance, they also chose to be blind to history. Time and time again, street protests have decided the fate of governments and their policies whenever the latter have faltered or failed. Remember Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in Egypt, or Muammar Gaddafi’s in Lybia, or Ben Ali’s in Tunisia? It was popular outbursts of anger that brought about their downfall, just as they had forced the corrupt and brutal Marcos regime in the Philippines into exile and oblivion.
In the late 1980s, popular uprisings changed the face of Europe. In Nepal, King Gyanendra had no choice but to surrender to massive street protests, unprecedented in the history of that country. Popular anger has decided the fate of successive governments in Thailand in recent years. In South Korea, in 1997, hundreds of thousands of workers and students took their defiance to the streets and forced the then president, Kim Young-sam, to repeal all 11 of his notorious labour and security laws that he had got Parliament to pass in less than six minutes.
Examples there are more. President Suharto had to walk off the political stage in Indonesia when people, led by students, mounted a relentless campaign against him in 1998. In the Philippines, two other presidents, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, accused of rampant corruption and mismanagement, had to go the Marcos way, hounded by angry people on the EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 certainly had a role in making Beijing a little more mindful of the way it uses state power on its people. Last August, a chemical factory near Dalian was closed down and relocated in the face of protests by residents who wore gas masks and held up banners saying “Reject Poison” and “Return our Homes.”
Politicians who vilified Hazare’s campaign ignored the fact that he wasn’t out to rob Parliament of its legislating authority, but was only pressing citizens’ views on what a strong Lok Pal should be. It’s sad that those who are elected by the people to represent their interests should consider Hazare’s airing of citizens’ demands as an attack on Parliament. It’s even more unfortunate that they should reduce the fight against corruption into an unwarranted vendetta, thus, exposing the latent autocratic tendencies of their so-called democratic character.
Some have asked the question, why Hazare? To this, the reply should be, why not? Somebody had to rise up and take a stand against such a pervasive issue as corruption in high places. Hazare did, the only person in post-Independence India to do so in public when all others were only barking from their holes. Is that a crime? When nothing else would work, is the exercise of pressure an undesirable weapon to use? We should rather be thankful that Hazare’s is a peaceful, Gandhian campaign. If peaceful protest gets no heed, popular anger is bound to seek other avenues of expression.
A system that allows government and Parliament to function as closed-off bastions of authority and considers any third-party opinion as a transgression that must be defeated by any means isn’t quite democratic. Hazare’s campaign has revealed quite clearly that a shadow has fallen between our idea of democracy and the reality of it, and that shadow is deepening. The role of independent public opinion as an important democratic interface has been ignored for long and now demands to be fully recognised and respected.
If there’s no provision in our Constitution for listening to and consulting that opinion, we must create one, since the Lok Pal debate has shown once again that Parliament is a poor mirror of popular will; the allegiance of its members will always be to their vested political interests. The debate degenerated into a shameless political cockfight between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the ludicrous way it ended makes a stronger public campaign against corruption all the more necessary.
By belittling public opinion that’s outside of political parties and election manifestoes, and treating it as an attempt to subvert the Constitution and rule of law, we may be leaving open a dangerous – and expanding – space of discontent within our democratic system that may not remain a Ramlila Maidan for all time. At some point of desperation, it might turn into a Tahrir Square.
Thank you Col. Mehndiratta for the article!!
So I came across this TIME magazine yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about this cover image and their choice of the person of the year. Its telling I think of the importance that the recent uprisings and demonstrations have gained. The world has had to take notice and acknowledge them. At the same time I also feel that by making it about just the protest, the depth and importance of these uprisings has been diminished. As I am in London with my family at the moment, we have had numerous discussions on another very violent form of ‘protest’, the London Riots of 2011. So is protest for the sake of Protest justified? And does the protester have no moral obligations towards society? Does the end justify the means?