Gezi Park protests: Through an Indian perspective

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Photo source: http://imgur.com/a/JvJD3

What was thought to be a simple environmental issue has today led to the uprising and protests from Istanbul to all over Turkey. It has revealed very much the authoritarian nature of the government in power and the very unpredictable nature of the exponential acceleration of the protests as an expression of discontent against the government.

Now how does this affect India? I don’t think that we have an answer to that as yet. But one thing it does show clearly is the lack of the general consciousness amongst men and women of my country about their own rights and the responsibilities of the government towards them. I have been debating this topic since the protests in Istanbul started out as something miniscule yet grand in its own idea. Now we have similar issues of lack of green spaces in the cities, especially in Ahmedabad where government plots (which were once upon a time some form of green spaces) have been sold off to private institutions to undertake construction of buildings of commercial or residential use. I know that we have more things to debate and demand, like take the infamous sexual abuse of women for example. What have we done so far, I demand? All we have attained so far is odd things like the ban of “open” mannequins in Mumbai since they “incite men to rape”.

So I sat down looking for reasons. We did have protests, pretty grand ones, especially in Delhi. But permanent sit-ins like the ones in Tahrir Square in Cairo or the current ones in Gezi Park, where are those? We do have protests, but they are the ones usually held on weekends where all the so-called social elites gather to make odd candle vigils for victims (hence victimizing the victim even more) only to end up having “cool photos” with maximum “likes” on social media sites. I do understand that Indians do not enjoy the grand-weekends consisting of Saturdays and Sundays, rather we have just Sundays, restricting any middle-class family to be ticking off their chores lists rather than being out protesting. Now these are all valid reasons, I do agree. But then, it gives no one the right to ask for freedom and equality from the government. What we forget is that the most important premise of a successful working democracy is civic-participation. The government in itself is a collection of voices of the citizens and it takes as a pre-requisite the expression of the opinion of citizens. But where is our expression of opinion?

Every homecoming has made me only realize that the culture of expression in India is declining. We have the noise, but no voice! There are no planned agendas or well-framed demands from the people to the governing bodies. And hence the politicians have learnt the art of being deaf, for there are no voices to hear. There is only noise, too much noise.

I am not here to make policy recommendations, nor am I here to accuse. What remains out of the Turkish example is only a reflection of what can be done and what we have so easily forgotten. For the rest, I wish the best for the Turkish people protesting out there today.

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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