Many newspapers and news channels have been reporting about farmers
protesting against the Farmers Bill 2020 and marching towards the capital city
from Punjab and Haryana. There are those who categorize it as a political
conspiracy, while others describe it as a genuine protest to prevent the final
enactment of the bill due to some apparent flaws.
The protest was taken on a
massive scale and the farmers succeeded in getting a meeting with the officials,
but they weren't the only ones suffering. The residents must have also endured a
lot of hardships.
Protest-a fundamental right
The purpose of protest by a group, community, or individual is to express their
disapproval or defiance of the actions, policies, statements, etc of the state,
government, or organization. The majority of protests are driven by political
waves, which are also a sign of the collective organization of people to force
the state or government to address their issues and take steps to overcome
them. In general, protests work in two ways. First, it shows the community or
group, or individual that they disagree with the policy, and second, it helps
governments identify their own shortcomings and work to make them
Historically, protests date back to the pre-independence period:
- Indian protests have a long and illustrious history. In the past 72
years, India was a colony ruled by the Britishers
- After independence, the people of that country became free citizens
after a long series of protests by freedom fighters.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Known also as the father of the Indian nation,
Mahatma Gandhi taught Indian citizens how to protest peacefully.
- Whether it was the Swadeshi Movement of 1905 or the Satyagraha of 1930, these
movements have shaped the history of the nation as a peaceful protest against
- Indians fought tirelessly to express their views on colonial policies
and to show dissent against British colonization and to speak out against
In a democratic country, one must adhere to their duties or responsibilities
when exercising their right to peaceful protest.
Constitutional Protections available to Right to Protest
Indians fought energetically in every fight to openly express their perspectives
on frontier approaches and to challenge English colonization and the public
In a country with a vote-based system of government, one should adhere to
obligations or duties while practicing or appreciating serene dissent.
- A fundamental obligation for every citizen under Article 51A is to
safeguard public property and to avoid violence during public protests.
Invoking violence during public protests, therefore, results in an
infringement of that fundamental obligation.
- In the Constitution, Article 19(1)(a) explains this right to freedom of
speech and expression.
- It includes that each individual has the privilege to express their own
viewpoints however exposed to reasonable restrictions
- The right to assemble peaceably and without arms is under article
19(1)(b). Thus the right to peaceful protest is given to Indian citizens by
- The right to assemble peaceably on article 19(2) imposes reasonable
restrictions and without weapons and to freedom of speech and expression as
none of these rights are utter in nature.
- The sensible restrictions are obligatory in the welfare of the
sovereignty & integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly
relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morals, or in
relation to the disdain of court, offense, or incitement to an offence.
Public as Watchdog of the Government
The public acts as a watchdog and monitors the government's every move. As a
result of injustice or misuse of power, the public has often acted as a
watchdog, and protests have been held. In India during the Emergency, people of
all political persuasions protested against the misuse of power.
- During the Emergency, Arun Jaitley, who was then an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi
Parishad student leader in Delhi, gathered a crowd to burn a statue or dummy of
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which led to his arrest.
- Other BJP leaders, including AB Vajpayee, LK Advani, and Narendra Modi,
participated in the protests against the Emergency, together with Kerala Chief
Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and followers of Jayaprakash Narayan (Lok Nayak), like
Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. In reality, many of these leaders were
students at the time and rose to high posts or office in the future.
- Also in 1973, the Chipko movement in the upper Alaknanda valley in India began a
precedent for non-violent protests in India that was followed by the Andhra and
According to the Supreme Court in Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary,
Union of India & Others
(2012), "Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly
and peaceful protest that cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or
legislative act". Gang rape in Delhi in 2012 caused tremendous public outrage,
and the citizens expressed their clear displeasure with that event.
Anna Hazare began a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in 2011 that led
to Sharad Pawar's resignation from the group of ministers charged with reviewing
the draft Jan Lokpal bill.
For what reason is it fundamental for upholding democracy?
The government introduces many policies from time to time in the interest of the
citizens and the overall improvement of the country. People in the country
monitor these policies, and it is through them that opinions on these policies
can be formed. Since the citizen is more like a watchdog for these policies, any
mistakes or shortcomings can be addressed by them and solved by peaceful
During colonial rule, various communities organized public meetings, dharnas,
protests, etc. as a means of protesting the British rule and demanding
independence from Britain. On the other hand, the state is also required by the
Constitution to ensure the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
by respecting and responding to protests. But protests shouldn't be inspired by
intentionally disrupting the state's normal functioning.
As demonstrated in the
recent Bharat Bandh on account of farmers' protest on December 8, 2020, the
protestors went over the top with their actions. It disrupted cab services,
stopped a train, and also prevented an elderly woman from going to the doctor.
Such protests are unethical and unfair when they are inspired by such political
It is not only a fundamental right granted by the Indian Constitution but also a
moral duty to protest injustice. By now, it is pretty obvious that the
constitution safeguards the Right to Protest. In some instances, it can be
considered a treasure to secure the right of free expression and peaceful
protest, and it should be protected at all times.
However, these rights are not
absolute and should be subject to reasonable restrictions as provided under
Article 19(2), which is crucial for the sovereignty and integrity of the
country. Fundamental rights do not exist in isolation, and the rights of
protestors and commuters need to be balanced together.