A huge convoy of vehicles camping out in the capital and other major cities to protest in action what was imposed without democratic consent; thousands of men and women from all walks of life giving up their day jobs to follow the convoys, determined to help out in any way they could; mainstream media and governments demonizing and demeaning the protestors, painting them ignorant, led by outsiders – impossible they could be doing all this by themselves…
Sound familiar? Yes, but this was not the Canadian Freedom Convoy of truckers protesting vaccine mandates and other issues in Canadian politics. This happened in a huge democracy, far, far away…
In Canada, the federal government was successful in focusing national attention on “fringe groups” and possible “terrorists” to reframe genuine grass-roots discontent as outsider-driven and dangerous to the Canadian government.
In India, however, the vast convoys and protests were successful, though it took a year. Despite all the name-calling, no government passed an Emergency Measures Act, nor did federal or state governent leaders feel they had to go into protective hiding…
What happened was that 3 laws which had been passed quickly and without proper consultation or democratic process were finally repealed (and a government apology issued with promise of reparations for those who suffered badly from this protracted needless stand-off.
For those interested in the issues, have a read here, at Farm Laws 2020: Who Are They Meant To Serve?
For our purposes here, the question is why did the mass movement succeed? In India, democracy is often described as “fragile” – but government and society survived this challenge, whereas in Canada only anger and criminal charges remain.
It turns out there are several major reasons for India’s success in democratic protest. These reasons provide important strategies and principles followed by the movement which provide a template for grass-roots (Aquarian) resistance movements as we move toward a model of participatory democracy which may possibly enable us to save the very concept of democracy itself.
Five Strategies Behind India’s Successful 2020 Farmer Protests
- Unity: It became apparent early that a large coalition from across all groups related to farming in India was necessary for any hope of success. The perspectives and goals of such groups were included and expressed in the general protest.
- Many farmers were Sikhs, and their adherence to two religious precepts were on display: Seva (service) and langar (community kitchens) – simple, practical, crucial.
- Intellectual finesse, willingness to combine and use a variety of social movement thought – socialist, feminist, environmentalist, and so on, to reach out to the many watching and listening, across India. Gandhi’s teachings of peaceful protest were adopted, despite many provocations.
- Using space shrewdly – This may not be as possible as it was in India where governments use draconian laws to force protest to back streets and invisibility. Denied entry to the capital city, Delhi, India’s convoy simply set up shop on the highway and stayed…
- Using the media with patience, persistence and gentility: Despite obvious hostility from mainstream media, India protesters gave polite interviews and pumped out their goals, values, hopes and needs over all available social media, reaching hundreds of millions of fellow Indias, not to mention the rest of the world.
Clearly, this local event in India has global implications. All of us interested in the preservation of a meaningful democracy could well make a study of what India – perhaps the Mother of all civilizations – has to teach the world.
For full details on these strategies, and a larger discussion, visit Where Do India’s Farmers Go From Here? (The Diplomat).