No matter how deeply you feel for your cause, resist the urge to blame the government for your personal problems
The farmers’ protests in Delhi, coming after the anti-CAA protests earlier this year, have raised some profound questions. Such as: How to protest safely, without getting tear-gassed, lathi-charged, or water-cannoned? How did people protest during the time of Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Ayurveda? How to protest in such a way that the people you are protesting against praise you, love you and garland you instead of beating you, maligning you and throwing you in jail under UAPA?
Having spent the last several minutes thinking about these questions, I am pleased to inform that I have found the answers. So, without further ado, I’m sharing some tips on how to protest safely yet effectively.
1. Prepare a vision and mission statement: This is indispensable for anyone aspiring to become a protester who is not politically motivated. Take a sheet of paper and write down how your protest will help build your personal brand. Will it increase your followers on Twitter or Instagram? Will it generate material for a novel or an award-winning non-fiction book? If not, then can you at least serve as the state’s plant among the protesters, working to divide and sabotage the protest from within? Or can you, as a protester, give stupid statements to godi media that can help the government by discrediting the protesters in some way? Think.
2. Answer the question why: In my experience, people in India often have a genuine reason for protesting. To help you achieve clarity on your own motivations, I am sharing a multiple choice question below. Please read it carefully.
I want to protest because:
a. I am an anti-national
b. I am a Khalistani
c. I am an urban naxal
d. I am misguided by the Opposition
e. I am jealous of India’s stupendous
f. I am driven to despair by Modiji’s
g. All of the above
Once you’ve picked the option that best describes your motivation, do not forget to email your answer to the NIA.
3. Take every precaution: Some people, especially those from JNU, imagine that going for protest is like going on picnic. They become very cheerful and sing songs. Obviously they are misguided. The first step towards protesting is to apply for permission. If the police or your RWA deny permission, don’t cry. More often than not, the problem can be solved by slightly changing the topic of your protest. Let’s say you want to stage an anti-CAA protest but not getting permission. All you need to do is change it to a pro-CAA protest — nine times out of ten, you will get permission. In fact, this is one reason why I am convinced that the agitating farmers are misguided. Had their consultants been any good, they would have told them to change their protest from ‘anti-farm laws’ to ‘pro-farm laws’. Had they done so, they would have got immediate permission to protest wherever they wanted to in Delhi.
4. Resist, don’t criticise: Protesting can generate strong emotions. But no matter how deeply you feel for your cause, resist the urge to blame the government for your personal problems. After all, what is a protest if not resistance? Let’s say, for instance, that you are unemployed despite holding a PhD in Entire Political Science. Blaming the government for your unemployment is nothing but a way to evade personal responsibility. On the other hand, if you’re really serious about working, you could always find employment in IT Cell or NREGA.
5. Pick the right cause: This is the single most important factor that can decide the fate of your protest — and determine whether you one day become chief minister of Delhi or languish in jail, waiting for Godot to give bail. Of course, a lot depends on your temperament — whether you are pro- or anti-establishment.
If you are anti-establishment, I would advise you to stick to international causes. For instance, you could protest against the ongoing war in Ethiopia and demand an immediate ceasefire. (By the way, this protest topic is not yet taken in India — so if you go ahead, you’ll enjoy the first mover’s advantage.) Or you could launch a mass movement against Trump’s attempts to undermine American democracy — I’m confident you’ll get all permissions.
Personally, I would recommend that you go in for a pro-establishment protest. Not only are they the safest, they always pay dividends in the long run. For instance, you could sit on a hunger strike outside Parliament demanding that the government immediately — as in RIGHT NOW — sell all of its PSUs, all of its land, and all of its other assets to crony capitalists at throwaway prices. Or you could launch a protest demanding that the government raise excise duty on petrol and diesel by 56% every day till 2024. Or you could start a campaign demanding that the government declare all Opposition parties as terrorists perpetrating Constitution jihad. The possibilities, as you can see, are endless. Happy protesting!
G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.