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Protest... Protests... Protests... PRotests... PRO-tests... PROtests...

The BUSINESS of protesting has seen a meteoric rise in the past few years. From a turnout of a mere few hundred affected people in the affected areas; it has grown to millions throughout the country at an average of at least 50 rallies annually. Now only the Pros can organize successful protests.  

It is obvious that everybody cannot be happy about every decision taken by an authority designated to take a decision.  In fact, every decision taken toward anything is bound to go against somebody. In earlier days, mostly only the directly affected lot protested. With time many protests also got initiated by someone aspiring to be a ‘leader’ by tickling the selfish side or emotion of people.

Some protests got demands fulfilled, some fizzled out. Since ‘leaders’ of successful protests achieve blessings of the beneficiaries for a long time; they would not care if demands are legitimate or detrimental. This explains non-labourers ‘controlling’ labour unions, non-students ‘controlling’ student unions etc.

Over time ‘leaders’ figured out that highly participated protests got favorable results for their actual motive. So clubbing different units or sections evolved. Misquoting or invoking great leaders from past, ‘gajar’ of benefits, sense of belonging and pride of caste / community or offers of direct payment (‘Saam’, ‘Dam’ ‘Dand’ ‘Bhed’) worked to bring the numbers required. It hardly mattered whether protests remained silent or got violent as long as the ‘leaders’ could prove themselves as assets for political parties and also earn through a compromise. An era of starting protests saw an emergence of new leaders who had actually led to a scenario where; (giving a few examples)   

  • Labour Unions; participating in each others’ agitations of unviable illegitimate demands destroyed many small, medium and even large scale mills and industries in 80s and 90s.
  • Uniting castes with large numbers of people formed OBC / ‘Dalits’ categories that killed merit and competency by demanding Reservation in education and jobs in 90s.
  • Protesting against Govt decision for the sake of opposing has led to chaos many times.  
  • Leaders of different religions or castes joining each others’ agitations. The garb of sympathizing for injustice meted out to them with a fear of such injustice may be bestowed upon others can be easily claimed.   

Naturally all this affected productivity and resulted in high unemployment that is just not waning out.

But fear not; an industry of protesting has emerged. We are now in the World where any and every decision of any authority will go through the test of protests. So who participate and who funds protests, which need participation in large numbers? How does the ‘protest industry’ work?

We see huge crowd involved in protests. It is quite improbable that working people will use their limited number of ‘leaves’. Directly affected or not; they will still seek compensation in some sort or at least expect getting excused by their bosses officially or unofficially to be present at rallies. The unemployed have time, but will they use the time to hunt employment or join rallies? Here is where the ‘organizers’ specializing in ‘man management’ come in. If you visit rallies and speak to even just a few, you will realize that rallying crowd is mostly students that are always enthusiastic to excitement or on a look out for the extra money; and the stressed unemployed people eager to unleash their frustration and happy to get at least something. These become soft target to approach for ‘daily compensation’. With equivalent compensation and added B & B (Biriyani & Beer) incentive, even the daily wage earners may prefer rallying to manual labour.  This explains presence of many people not concerned with the reason for the protest. Non-Patels, non-Maraths etc during their respective demands of reservations is an example.

Once some reaction of even false promises from those against whom the protest was staged is attained, motive of ‘leaders’ (of getting appreciation) is achieved. After this ‘leaders’ that initiated and funded for it would not care what really happens. With ‘bhade ke tattos’ out of picture, protest ends and the situation is forgotten as is. Capital punishment for ‘Nirbhaya’ convicts and Fast track courts for rape cases were demanded but still haven’t happened is an example.    

The ‘buying’ of media is an essential part of the ‘protest industry’. These guys easily manage camera tricks to show a larger than actual number of people. Bytes of ‘leaders’ and ‘planted’ individuals show public anger. Planting a few violent protesters happens depending on decision of ‘leaders’. The coverage inspires more people to join or at least follow on social media. Morphed videos and rumored opinions further get more involved in one way or the other. When high involvement seems evident, more political leaders (example Chandrashekhar Azad of Bhim Army at Jama Masjid) and even celebrities (Deepika Padukone at JNU) jump in for self promotion or staying in news (Badnaami mein bhi naam hota hai. Jo dikhta hai, wahi bikta hai. These 2 facts nullify the argument that a celebrity doesn’t need cheap publicity). The media that started with giving coverage for monetary compensation now covers it for their TRPs and advertising revenues. ‘Experts’ (mostly self styled activists / analysts) and politicians will be called for ‘debates’ on the issue. These guests are mostly manipulated or told of ‘script’ to follow. Invariably many end up taking sides without knowing what the issue is; or which side is detrimental to the country. Forgetting our own ability of analysis, we people just follow who we fancy.

In the CAA issue; even rallies in support have been organized. That is a double whammy for those in ‘protest industry’ (politicians, man management agencies and media being a major part of it). Rallies of both sides will now be a new trend. I would not be surprised if I see some people to be rallying on both rallies.

This is the reality of most protests. Neither of the sides actually cares for what is good for the Nation. If you are a real patriot, avoid reacting, taking interest or watching news and senseless debates on trivial or non-issues. Utilize the same time to concentrate on keeping updated about issues you feel are really important and Voicing Out your opinion.        

On a lighter note, there is a bright side; protests on trivial or non-issues are a Win-Win situation for:

  • Government (to divert attention from real issues)
  • Man management agencies (high engagement and turnover)
  • Politicians and celebrities (to stay in public memory)
  • Media (they need material to give 24*7 Breaking News and hold debates or panel discussions)
  • Self styled analysts develop a career with reaching out to masses and attaining fan following.
  • We people (we need to gossip with 24*7 Breaking News to de-stress from real issues that never get a solution)
  • Mobile and Internet services providers (achieve revenues through more data usage).
  • Unemployed (get employed as protesters by man management agencies)

I wonder if encouraging protests over non-issues is Government strategy to create temporary employment to keep the unemployed afloat; and also bringing out the stashed ‘black’ money that gets utilized to compensate protesters. If all are gaining with protests over non-issues, it is actually ok to sacrifice National interest as collateral damage!!!!!! 

About Author: Rohit Aarrya is a Partner in AMEN LLP and Fit InfraTech Solutions LLP; and Founder Trustee of ABCDE Foundation. He may be termed as self styled social activists. His report on the public response and activity plan of Project Let’s Change in 2013 to the Govt of Gujarat may have triggered the launch of Mission Swachh Bharat. He has written and directed 3 feature length films on social issues of cleanliness and Reservations.