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Pictures: From JP to Anna, 42 years of India’s most iconic movements

first_imgJP MOVEMENT 1974-75Challenging Mrs GMuch of India’s revolutionary vocabulary, the kind of sloganeering borrowed so effectively by Arvind Kejriwal for instance, relies almost entirely on the movements of the mid-1970s. Building on the fervour already created in Gujarat by students involved in the Navnirman movement, students at Patna University called,JP MOVEMENT 1974-75Challenging Mrs GMuch of India’s revolutionary vocabulary, the kind of sloganeering borrowed so effectively by Arvind Kejriwal for instance, relies almost entirely on the movements of the mid-1970s. Building on the fervour already created in Gujarat by students involved in the Navnirman movement, students at Patna University called in March 1974 for the blockading of the Bihar Assembly. The police responded with violence, succeeding only in inspiring state-wide student protests. Student leaders approached the ageing Berkeley-educated socialist Jayaprakash Narayan to serve as the figurehead of their movement. Inspired by the mood for change gripping the country’s campuses and streets, JP, as Narayan was known, agreed to come out of retirement, becoming an icon of the opposition to Indira Gandhi’s increasingly authoritarian rule which culminated in the Emergency of 1975. JP was Nehru’s friend. But the movement that took on his name made bedfellows of committed Marxists and the RSS, represented by its political wing, the Jan Sangh, both bitterly opposed to Nehru’s daughter. The Janata Party, founded by JP, swept to power in the wake of the Emergency to become the country’s first non-Congress government.AASU 1979Assam EruptsPhoto courtesy: AASUMany of the concerns expressed by the Assamese students’ union at the heart of this agitation continue to have contemporary resonance. The war that led to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 meant a dramatic increase in the numbers of refugees flooding into India, Assam in particular. A 1978 by-election became the spark that lit a long-simmering flame. The All-Assam Students’ Union demanded that electoral rolls be purged of illegal immigrants before elections be allowed to take place. Hundreds of students died in the years of protest that followed. Their demands were parochial but were motivated by a desire to protect their culture and language from being overwhelmed by immigration, tolerated because it was politically expedient. In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed which sought to expel anyone who had entered the state after 1971. Implementation continues to be a matter of conflict between Assamese leaders and the central government.advertisementMATHURA RAPE PROTESTS 1980The Women’s MovementThe sight of thousands of young people on the streets of Delhi to protest the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh (aka Nirbhaya) on December 16, 2012, might have reminded veteran feminists of the young women who came out onto the streets in 1980 to decry the Supreme Court’s acquittal of two policemen accused of raping a tribal teenager in Maharashtra. The rape had happened in 1972. A lower court said that since the young plaintiff, known as ‘Mathura’, was “habituated to sexual intercourse”, rape could not be proven. The apex court upheld the verdict, and wondered in its judgment whether the lack of visible injuries on Mathura’s person indicated consent. Many women’s groups were formed in order to mount organised protests. Eventually, the women who protested forced Indian law to change, to accept that if a victim says there was no consent, courts must take the claim at face value unless shown otherwise.KHALISTAN MOVEMENT 1984 Bhindranwale’s ArmyIndia Today ArchivesIn the 1950s, the Punjabi Suba movement led by the Akali Dal sought to create a Punjabi-majority state within India. The ‘Punjabi-only’ demands were used as a spur to seek a separate Punjabi nation, an independent Sikh nation called Khalistan. The movement picked up pace in the 1970s and ’80s. Jagjit Singh Chauhan, on visits to London and New York, nearly a decade apart, announced the formation of Khalistan. But it was really under the aegis of religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale that the Khalistan movement took off in the early ’80s. Though Bhindranwale claimed he was ambivalent about Khalistan, he was a magnet for young Sikhs from radical factions of the Sikh Students Federation, the International Sikh Youth Federation and the Babbar Khalsa, among others. In a bid to flush out militants, Indira Gandhi ordered army units to storm the Golden Temple in June 1984. Many hundreds were killed. In October, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards, leading to a pogrom in Delhi.KASHMIR INSURGENCY 1990Angry ValleyPhoto: Ajit Kumar/APAllegedly rigged in favour of the Congress-aligned Farooq Abdullah, the 1987 elections in Kashmir were the catalyst for what became known as the Kashmiri intifada. As the insurgency grew, Indian forces responded with often disproportionate violence. It was inevitably the young who brought energy and feet on the ground to the insurgency and the protests. They also swelled the ranks of casualties. In January 1990, the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on protesters in Gawkadal, Srinagar, killing at least 50, according to international human rights groups, though some tallied over 200 dead. They were protesting a crackdown by Jagmohan, the new governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who ordered the arrests of hundreds merely suspected of participating in the growing militancy. The deaths served only to intensify the calls for freedom. Many date the escalation of violence in Kashmir, the crossing over into terrorism, abetted by Pakistan, to the actions of paramilitary forces in 1990. No one in the CRPF was found responsible for what happened.advertisementMANDAL AGITATION 1990No ReservationsIndia Today ArchivesMorarji Desai, then prime minister of India, set up the Mandal Commission in 1979 to examine the question of reservations, a kind of affirmative action to help combat the impoverishing effects of caste discrimination. In August 1990, the V.P. Singh government attempted to implement the Commission’s recommendations. The result was mayhem. Students, particularly, were at the centre of the agitation, afraid of losing university places to those from so-called ‘backward’ castes. In Delhi, over 200 students set themselves on fire. Normal life across northern India was suspended as students enforced strikes, closed colleges and businesses, and blocked off roads in protest. Anger at the Mandal Commission recommendations helped precipitate the resignation of Singh less than a year into his prime ministership.ANTI-RESERVATION STIR 2006Road RagePhoto: Ishan Tankha/India TodayTwinned to the Mandal Commission agitations, albeit a quarter of a century later were the protests against the decision by the United Progressive Alliance government, led by the Congress, to reserve 27 per cent of seats in India’s finest institutions of higher education for OBCs. Students accused the government of practising vote bank politics. Medical students, in particular, held large protests in both Delhi and Mumbai. The police responded with lathi charges and by turning on the water cannons. Over 2,500 students at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee signed a petition opposing reservations, addressing it to the prime minister, president, chief justice and election commission. Faculty at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences went on mass casual leave. It took a Supreme Court order to force doctors back to work. In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the quota, though it directed the government to exclude the ‘creamy layer’ of OBCs.PRIDE MARCH 2008377 Reasons to ProtestPhoto: Mustafa Quraishi/APNearly 20 years ago in Kolkata, the first pride march in South Asia was organised in Kolkata. Called the ‘Friendship Walk’, it featured some 15 participants wearing bright yellow t-shirts. Since then, pride events have become mainstream in Indian cities. In 2008, simultaneous pride marches were held in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi. These were of course ‘young’ events but as carnivalesque celebrations of diversity, they drew people of every generation and description. Less than a month later, Mumbai held its own pride march. Hundreds of people were in attendance, focusing their ire on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that in effect criminalises homosexuality. Perhaps in response to the marches, the Delhi High Court decriminalised the section in July 2009. But in 2013, the Supreme Court of India overturned the judgment, stating that it was an issue for Parliament to discuss, not the courts. Pride marches continue to be an annual affair in Indian cities and continue to attract greater turnouts.advertisementINDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION 2011Anna for Your ThoughtsPhoto: Chandradeep KumarOn April 5, 2011, Anna Hazare began a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, in the capital, to put pressure on the government to pass the Jan Lokpal bill and appoint an independent ombudsman to scrutinse government corruption. Hazare was the figurehead of the India Against Corruption movement that captured the imagination of large swathes of the country, particularly the young, and resulted in part in the creation of the Aam Aadmi Party. In a sense, AAP represented the demise of the movement as Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal parted ways. But for two years, IAC fixed the attention of the media to happenings in Jantar Mantar and the Ramlila Maidan, an efflorescence of the disgust middle-class Indians felt towards political corruption. But critics questioned the extent of the reach of the protests compared to the media attention they generated.FTII PROTESTS 2015The Long IntermissionPhoto: Chandu PalkarThe Information and Broadcasting ministry’s decision to appoint the TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, was greeted by students with the declaration of an indefinite strike. Students said it was a blatant attempt to “saffronise” the FTII and questioned Chauhan’s artistic credentials and ability to provide the necessary vision and inspiration as chairman. The students also asked questions about other members of the eight-person FTII panel, and argued that their appointments showed that ideological affiliation trumped suitability. Chauhan, for his part, borrowed a page from the Donald Trump manual and insisted that if students gave him a year, he would prove himself to be the best-ever FTII chairman. It took the students until October to call off their strike and return to classes, though they reiterated their opposition. Two years later, Chauhan was replaced by the actor Anupam Kher.ROHITH VEMULA PROTESTS 2016India’s Original SinPhoto: M ZhazoThe suicide on January 17, 2016, of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, a PhD candidate at the University of Hyderabad, prompted protests across the country and as far afield as Johannesburg and San Francisco. It was considered by many protesters a case of bullying and a tragic example of the caste discrimination that is all too common in elite Indian universities. Vemula, a member of the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), was one of a handful of students who protested in August 2015 against the execution of Yakub Memon, convicted for his role in the 1993 Bombay bombings that killed 257 people. The local chapter of Hindu nationalist student group ABVP wrote to a BJP member of Parliament accusing the ASA of “casteist” and “anti-national” activities. The university stopped Vemula’s stipend and suspended him. In his suicide note, Vemula wrote affectingly of his dreams of being a science writer “like Carl Sagan”.JNU PROTESTS 2016Surviving ‘Sedition’Photo: M ZhazoStudents at the Jawaharlal Nehru University demonstrated against the hanging of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for the 2001 attack on Parliament, in February last year. ABVP, the Hindu nationalist student union, protested against the demonstration and the university authorities withdrew their permission for the original event just before it was scheduled to begin. Further controversy was stoked by claims that demonstrators shouted ‘anti-India’ slogans. Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the JNU students’ union, was arrested and charged with sedition for being among the slogan-shouters. It briefly made Kumar a national celebrity and political lightning rod. For opponents of the BJP, all their illiberal tendencies, their intolerant nationalism was on display in the heavy-handedness of their reaction to student protests. For supporters, the BJP were standing up for India against those who would traduce it while enjoying its freedoms.PROTESTS IN KASHMIR 2016Stones vs PelletsPhoto: Abid BhatThe killing of Burhan Wani, a young commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, by Indian security forces in July, last year, triggered anguished protests in Kashmir. A curfew was ordered and mobile phone services suspended, but still people poured into the streets. For several months, protesters used stones to attack security forces. In response, they were fired upon, particularly by pellet guns, resulting in the injuring, and even blinding, of thousands. Most of the so-called ‘stone-pelters’ are students in local high schools and colleges. Their youth is startling. One girl who was photographed throwing a rock was recently among a group of Kashmiri footballers who met home minister Rajnath Singh. The Indian authorities allege that many of those who throw stones are paid by Pakistan-funded militant groups.JALLIKATTU PROTESTS 2017Bull FightPhoto: Jaison GAnimal rights activists PETA filed a lawsuit describing jallikattu, the traditional Tamil sport of bull-taming, as cruel. The Indian Supreme Court agreed and banned the sport, played during the winter harvest festival of Pongal. The orders were effective from 2014, but it was only in January 2017 that thousands of young people filled the streets of Chennai in largely peaceful protest. The demonstrations were notable for being apparently leaderless and apolitical. Student-led, the protests were, many analysts argued, an expression of Tamil pride, an embrace of local tradition and a rejection of foreignness, as represented not just by PETA but multinational companies that deprive local farmers of resources. The young protesters want bulls to be removed from a list of “performing animals”. But PETA has once again filed a suit in the Supreme Court and released a video showing the cruelties to which bulls are subjected during jallikattu.BHU PROTESTS 2017Doing It for ThemselvesPhoto: Bairab JaiswalIn September this year, a student at Banaras Hindu University said that three men on a scooter had molested her on campus but she had received little help or sympathy from security guards or university authorities. Instead, she was asked what she was doing out so late. She was molested a little before six-thirty in the evening. The absurd response angered students who gathered in protest. The university’s response was first to patronise the protesting young women and then to lathi charge them. The protest coincided with prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Varanasi, the seat from which he fought the 2014 general election. According to news reports, Modi’s motorcade changed course to avoid the university. Students also criticised the university vice-chancellor for his tone-deaf response to their protests. He dismissed the harassment as “a simple case of eve-teasing”.last_img read more

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