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Two takes on India’s protests

In a recent article in Newsweek magazine, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wore his current hat as the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education to take an overview on the protest movement in India. Brown’s views are of interest, since he is a British intellectual and an experienced western statesman familiar with the problems of development in South Asia.

Brown draws sweeping parallels between the protests in India with the “rights revolution” sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. He sees both as essentially youth-driven and in reaction to “decades of adult complacency” and “inaction”. 
He attributes the credit for what is happening to globalization — first, the flow of capital in the era of globalization; second, the global sourcing of goods and services; and, thirdly and most important, the ‘new media’ (Internet, mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), which has shown the “potential to radicalize a new generation.”
However, Brown neatly sidesteps the big question: Will these Indian protests spare the existing political order and take the extraordinary turn as it did in Egypt? Perhaps, he is being polite. 
But Prem Shankar Jha has no reason to be polite. While Brown exudes an overall optimism that the “movement for basic rights” and “growing and insistent pressure from young people” are bringing about change, Jha is devastating in his estimation. 
Jha writes that the protests are by people who are “overcome by a sense of betrayal” and have lost hope that the predatory and venal political system can change at all, and borne out of a feeling that has “begun to dawn on them that democracy has become a part of the problem and cannot therefore be part of the solution.” 
If in Brown’s view, the protest in India is led by youth from the deprived social strata and is inspired by the Internet, Jha sees a “torrent of anger” that knows no boundaries of age (or caste) and has accumulated over time. 
Jha is probably more to the point — although one finds Brown’s innate optimism to be irresistible. After all, where was the Internet all this while? As he noted, “This [anger] has been apparent in the Maoist uprising that began in 2005, and has driven the [Indian] state out of large parts of 83 districts in the country.” Brown’s article is here, Jha is here

Posted in Politics.

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One Response

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  1. Dr Ajay says

    Mr. Jha’s article in The Hindu is an excellent articulation of the disillusionment with the political and beaucratic class. His assessment that Maoists movements, Hazare movement and the post Delhi gang rape protests are all symbolic of gathering storms, is spot on.
    However, an apathetic and inaction prone old order is not going to wake up and finds its feet any time soon. It has not gone beyond limp, lazy gestures. Nor will it.
    To add fuel to fire, there is a leadership class braying the suggestion that the violation of their imagined puritanistic ideals is sufficient justification for gruesome crimes against women. The PM, Super PM and the little PM are merrily continuing to play deaf, dumb and blind.
    The ingredients of a volatile combustible mixture are here. Good luck.

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