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5 People’s protests that changed India


1. Satyagraha

Mass protests earned Inda its independence from British colonial rule. In the early 20th century, Indian’s gathered in thousands to peacefully to determinedly demand the British leave India. Both British and Indian police officers attempted to repress protests. Later, led by Mahatma Gandhi, India became independent in 1947.

2. Anti-Hindi movement

In the mid-1960s, students in Tamil Nadu mobilized against the imposition of Hindi. They were vehemently against the Official Languages Act of 1963 that made Hindi an official language. Around 70 people died in the violence which included self-immolations. Though the law was passed then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri assured protesters English would continue as an official language of communication. Once MK Stalin, President of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) said “imposing Hindi on Tamil Nadu would be similar to throwing stones at a beehive.”

3. Bihar Movement

In 1974-75, Jayaprakash Narayan mass student protests against corruption in Bihar. The socialist activist espoused austerity, morality, and total revolution or Sampurna Kranti. His became a national movement against Indira Gandhi’s authoritarianism and unaddressed economic woes. He founded the Janata Party, the first non-Congress party voted to power at the center, which later merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

4. Mandal Commission

Heated protests erupted in 1990 when it was announced there would be 27 percent reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes. The positive discrimination measure was recommended by the Mandal Commission to offset the systemic inequalities affecting disadvantaged castes and communities. Some protests were strictly repressed when students tried self-immolation. The Commission’s recommendation was ordered to pass by the Supreme Court but the agitation put OBCs on the defensive. Political leaders representing OBCs like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, and Mulayam Singh Yadav gained popularity and changed Indian politics for good.

5. Nirbhaya

On 16th December 2012, six men gang-raped and tortured a young student to eventual death. The horrendous crimes shook the entire country perhaps all the more because they took place in the capital at a relatively early hour when she was in the company of a man. Indians were furious, incensed by the poor state of women’s safety. Officials were pressured to expand the legal definition of rape and fast-track the judicial process for such crimes. Indian women were greatly empowered to report sexual crimes and to discuss gender issues openly.

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