40 historic post independence protests India mustn't ever forget

From caste reservation and corruption to ecological degradation and intolerance, there hasn't been a dearth of contentious issues.

 |  13-minute read |   15-12-2015
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1. Chipko movement: The first Chipko action took place in April 1973 in the village of Mandal, triggered by the government’s decision to allot a plot of forest area in the Alakananda valley to a sports goods company. With encouragement from the NGO DGSS (Dasoli Gram Swarajya Sangh), the women of the village, led by activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, went into the forest and formed a circle around the trees preventing them from being cut down. The Sangh also decided to resort to hugging the trees, as a means of non-violent protest, thereby earning the movement the name "Chipko".

2. Silent Valley protest: It was a battlefield of personal agendas, between the then prime minister Morarji Desai, the Kerala government and environmentalists back in 1973. The Silent Valley hydroelectric project was to dam the Kunthipuzha river, submerging the entire biosphere reserve and destroying its four-million-year-old rainforests. In 1980, the MGK Menon Committee set up to review the project, came out with a recommendation to scrap it.This grassroots movement became the bedrock of Indian environmental activism.

3. Assam movement: The Assam movement (1979-1985) was a popular movement against undocumented immigrants in Assam. The movement, led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), developed a programme of protests and demonstration to compel the government to identify and expel illegal immigrants.

4. Jungle Bachao Andolan: The tribals of Singhbhum district of Bihar rose up in protest when the government decided to replace the natural sal forests with highly-priced teak, a move that was termed "a greed game and political populism" in the 1980s. The Jungle Bachao Andolan spread to Jharkhand and Odisha soon.

5. Khalistan movement: The Khalistan movement was a nationalist political liberation movement, aimed at the creation of Khalistan in the Punjab region of South Asia in the 1980s. The territorial definition of the proposed country ranged from Punjab as we know it to the greater Punjab region, including neighbouring Indian states. A section of Sikh leaders grew concerned that their community would be left without any homeland following the partition of India between the Hindus and the Muslims.

6. Gokak agitation: The Gokak agitation was a successful language right agitation in the 1980s that fought for the first-language status of Kannada in Karnataka. It was named after the committee headed by VK Gokak that had recommended primacy to Kannada in state schools.

7. Great Bombay textile strike: It was called on January 18, 1982, by the mill workers of Bombay under trade union leader Dutta Samant. The purpose of the strike was to obtain bonus and increase in wages. Nearly 2,50,000 workers and more than 50 textile mills went on strike in Bombay.

8. Narmada Bachao Andolan: The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), launched in 1989 by Medha Patkar, is a movement against the development of the Narmada Valley Project. It was estimated that the reservoir would submerge 40,000 hectares of land and 250 villages, disrupt downstream fisheries and cause ecological damage. The NBA started in the mid- and late-1980s, initially as a protest against inadequate rehabilitation and resettlement options for affected villagers and later for the preservation of the environment and ecosystems of the valley.

9. Separatist movement in Kashmir: One of the most high-profile separatist actions originated in Kashmir. India has introduced the Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA) to put down separatist movements in certain parts of the country. It was extended to most parts of Kashmir in 1990 after the outbreak of armed insurgency in 1989.

10. Mandal protests: In September 1990, Rajeev Goswami, a Delhi University student, set himself on fire, sustaining 50 per cent burns in protest of the Mandal Commission report, which recommended 27 per cent reservation for OBC candidates at all levels of its services. After this, youth in several cities and towns near Delhi set themselves on fire. Other forms of protest included bandhs, hartals and dharnas.

11. Namantar andolan: It was a Dalit movement to change the name of the Marathwada University in Aurangabad, Maharashtra to Dr BR Ambedkar University. It achieved a measure of success in 1994. The movement became a part of Dalit literature.

12. Jessica Lal case: Jessica Lal's case was pulled out of oblivion owing to consolidated civil society action. The model from New Delhi, working as a celebrity barmaid at a crowded socialite party was shot dead at around 2am on April 30, 1999. Dozens of witnesses pointed to Siddharth Vashisht, son of Venod Sharma, an influential Congress-nominated MP from Haryana, as the murderer. In the ensuing trial, Vashisht commonly known as Manu Sharma and a number of others were acquitted on February 21, 2006. Following intense media and public pressure, the prosecution appealed and the Delhi High Court conducted proceedings on a fast track with daily hearings conducted over 25 days.

13. Irom Sharmila's protests: Irom Sharmila was 28 at the time of the Malom Massacre and began a fast-in protest on November 2, 2000. Her primary demand has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA]. She vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until the act was struck down. She holds the record for adhering to her fast for the longest time.

14. Dalit agitation in Maharashtra: There was resentment among Dalits in Maharashtra, owing to the murder of four Dalits, allegedly by a mob of Kunbis in Kherlanji village in September 2006. On November 28, 2006, the brewing resentment among the Dalit community in Maharashtra took the form of violent protests, when a statue of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar was desecrated by a vandal in Kanpur. On November 30, 2006, violent protests took place in several places in Maharashtra. The Dalit protestors set three trains on fire, damaged over 100 buses and clashed with police.

15. Anti-reservation protests: The 2006 Indian anti-reservation protests was in opposition to the decision of the Union government of India, led by the Congress to implement reservations for the other backward classes (OBCs) in central and private institutes of higher education.

16. Hartal in Kerala: The state treasury of Kerala has suffered losses of thousands of millions of rupees, thanks to the state staging over 100 hartals annually. A record total of 223 hartals were observed in 2006, resulting in a revenue loss of over Rs 2,000 crore. There were around 363 "hartals", called by different political parties, between 2005 and 2012.

17. Nandigram and Singur protests in West Bengal: In January 2007, a movement led by Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) against the notification for acquiring land in Nandigram and Khejuri in East Midnapore district, for a special economic zone (SEZ) resulted in an agrarian agitation as protesters dug roads and damaged bridges, practically cutting off access to Nandigram. These protests culminated in police firing on March 14, which led to the death of 14 villagers, leaving several injured. It was also alleged that the protesters were tortured by the police.

               Protests erupted in Singur in West Bengal in the late 2000s against the alleged forcible acquisition of 400 acres of land for the proposed Tata Nano small car project. The protests were led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and supported by several Kolkata-based intellectuals like Aparna Sen, Kaushik Sen and Suvaprasanna. As a result of the protests the Tatas withdrew and shifted the project to Sanand in Gujarat.

18. Zero-rupee note: In 2007, a non-profit organisation called 5th Pillar unveiled a new means for Indians to register their refusal to participate in bribery — the "zero-rupee note". Closely patterned after the nation's 50-rupee notes, these documents instead included anti-corruption slogans - "Eliminate corruption at all levels" and "I promise to neither accept nor give bribe". These zero-rupee notes were designed for use by Indian citizens who have been requested to pay bribes in order to obtain services that are legally free or who are hit with illicit surcharges on such routine government transactions as obtaining a driver’s licence.

19. Net neutrality: Workers of Free Software Foundation in Tamil Nadu (FSFT) on April 21, 2008, protested for the cause of net neutrality at Edward Elliot's Beach in Chennai. With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) deadline on taking responses for the issue coming to an end on April 24, the protesters wanted to create awareness about net neutrality among average internet users.

20. Pink chaddi: Pink knickers were sent to Pramod Muthalik, chief of right-wing vigilante group Sri Ram Sena, in a bid to shame him with the provocative symbolism on Valentine's Day in 2009. The Sri Ram Sena had then made headlines for raiding a pub in the southern city of Mangalore and beating up women patrons. Thousands joined the campaign and about 2,000 pink chaddhis were couriered to Muthalik's office in Mangalore.

21. Protests over land acquisition: The government of Uttar Pradesh faced protests against its proposed enforced land acquisition in 2011. These protests were centred on the village of Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida and have resulted in sporadic incidents of violence since January of that year. In August 2010, there were protests against the state government in Delhi and these had resulted in three deaths.

22. People's movement against nuclear energy: The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy is an anti-nuclear power group in Tamil Nadu, founded by SP Udayakumar. Since September 2011, the aim of the group is to close the Kudankulam nuclear power plant site and to preserve the largely untouched coastal landscape, as well as educate locals about nuclear power.

23. Anna Hazare's fight against corruption: Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare began a hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on April 5, 2011 in order to persuade the government to enact a stringent anti-corruption law. The Lokpal Bill was premised on the institution of an ombudsman with the power to deal with corruption in public places. On April 9, 2011, Hazare ended the fast when his demands were accepted by the government.

24. Innocence of Muslims: On September 14, 2012, the US consulate in Chennai was attacked in response to a YouTube trailer titled "Innocence of Muslims". Muslim protesters threw stones and shoes at the building. This event was part of a series of attacks that went on from September 11, 2012 to September 29, 2014. As a direct result of it, about 25 people suffered minor injuries.

25. Jal satyagraha: Fifty one villagers stood in neck-deep water as they got covered with rashes and their skin peeled - for 17 days, forcing the Madhya Pradesh government to accept their demands. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan agreed on September 10, 2012 to lower the water level in the Omkareshwar dam, one of the key demands of the protesters in Ghogalgaon village of the state's Khandwa district.

26. Hike in house tax: Activists of Public Ekta Manch took out a mock funeral procession of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation administration in 2012 to register their protest against the hike in house tax. They shouted slogans against the AMC authorities and demanded rollback of the hike in house tax.

27. Tree protest: Greenpeace campaigner Brikesh Singh lived on a tree since September 1, 2012 for close to a month to protest destruction of biodiversity and displacement of thousands of forest-dependent communities owing to expansion of coal mining into forest areas. It acquired political mileage in the context of the 11th United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) slated to be held in Hyderabad.

28. Nirbhaya protests: Public protests took place in the capital on 21 December, 2012, five days after the brutal gangrape of a young girl on a bus. Crowds gathered in large numbers at India Gate and Raisina Hill. Thousands of protesters clashed with police and Rapid Action Force units. Demonstrators were baton charged, shot with water cannons and tear gas shells, and even detained.

29. Napkin protests: Red Alert: You’ve Got a Napkin! was launched in 2014 after news spread of women in a Kochi factory being forcefully strip searched because a sanitary napkin was discovered in the restroom. The protest involved sending used and unused sanitary napkins to the officials of Asma Rubber Private Limited in the Kochi, where the strip search was held.

30. Protests against Essar's coal mining project: A dozen professional highrises affiliated to Greenpeace protested against Essar’s coal mining project in Madhya Pradesh by unfurling a giant 36×72-foot banner on the building’s facade in 2014. As the company struggled to get the banner, which read "We kill forests: Essar", a dozen Greenpeace activists dressed in tiger costumes hung on to ropes for over five hours.

31. Protests over Nido Tania death: On January 29, 2014, Nido Tania, a 20-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in the Lajpat Nagar area of New Delhi, triggering widespread protests. The incident attracted widespread criticism from political parties and activists.

32. Telangana protests: This movement resulted in the new state of Telangana, carved from the existing state of Andhra Pradesh. The proposed new state corresponds to the Telugu-speaking portions of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. On February 18, 2014, Lok Sabha passed the bill with voice majority. Subsequently, the bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014.

33. Jadavpur University protests: The Hokkolorob movement is an ongoing series of protests by the students of Jadavpur University in Kolkata that began on September 3, 2014 owing to the laxity in the investigation of an alleged case of molestation on campus and the police brutality on unarmed students taking part in a non-violent sit-in demonstration.

34. Poop protests: Angry with the government's controversial land acquisition bill, a group of tribal villagers from the state of Jharkhand sat on a public poop protest in March 2015. The men, members of the National Campaign on Adivasi Rights, printed copies of the government's land bill, bared their bums and squatted by the roadside to defecate on the paper.

35. FTII protests: Students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the country’s premier film education centre, have gone on an indefinite strike since June 12, 2015, to protest the information and broadcasting ministry’s surprise appointment of television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the institute.

36. Patidar agitation: In July 2015, the people of India's Patidar community, seeking other backward class (OBC) status, held public demonstrations across Gujarat. These protests became violent and eventually resulted in curfews in several cities and towns. The youth protesters formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) for the purpose headed by Hardik Patel.

37. Crocodile installation: Frustrated with the authorities' failure to fix broken roads, an artist in Bangalore created a 20kg (44lb) life-sized fake crocodile in a huge waterlogged pothole on one of the main city streets in 2015. Visual artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy's stunt in June had some scared city residents running for cover, but it also appeared to jolt the sluggsh bureaucracy into action - only a day later, a group of contractors turned up to repair the damaged road. Taking inspiration from the protest, last month the Namma Bengaluru Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, filled a large pothole with a huge replica of an anaconda.

38. Award Wapsi: Countering the protests by writers and artistes against "rising intolerance", Bollywood actor Anupam Kher on November 7, 2015, led a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan alleging that the "award wapsi" campaign was defaming the country by projecting a "wrong" picture of the situation.

39. Gorkhaland agitation: Led by the Gorkhas of Nepali origin in Dooars of northern West Bengal, the Gorkhaland agitation started off with the demand for a separate state, based on ethno-linguistic rights. After multiple reconciliations, the agitation sparked off in 2007 again and the demand for a separate Gorkhaland remains till date.

40. Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan: In 2008, violence erupted in the western state when the Gujjars demanded the status of a lower scheduled tribe instead of an other backward class. On May 24 that year, police allegedly fired on the protesters, reportedly killing over 15 people. 

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