People’s movement reclaims lost democratic space - ECAS Punjab

People’s movement reclaims lost democratic space

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Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7

The farmers' uprising is not just about economic gains but seems to have already reclaimed the democratic space which was snatched away from different unions in the past decades by the Central and the state governments.

The farmers who are protesting in the heart of Delhi were not even allowed to enter Chandigarh to protest in the past one-and-a-half decades. For years, the government machinery would stop them at the Bhakra canal near Patiala in Punjab.

The last major protest held at Chandigarh's Matka Chowk was in 2006. After that, before any protest, the Chandigarh Administration would seal the entire city with barricades to stop the protesters from entering the city or would ask them to stage their dharna at Sector 25. In some cases, the state government stopped them at various district points like the Bhakra canal in Patiala and other places in Ropar.

The outcome of the situation was that several places in Punjab like Moga, Bathinda and Sangrur became protest capitals.

"Long back, till the mid-1980s when we were young, the farmers were allowed to hold protests in front of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh and in the heart of Delhi. However, by late 1980s, it became a phenomenon that the Centre and the state government snatched the right to protest and the space to protest from people," says Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, former Member of Parliament from Patiala. He says the way the farmers' march reached Delhi, it has undoubtedly reclaimed the democratic space, which was lost long back. "It will have consequences for various other states too," he says.

Prof Jagmohan Singh, president of the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab, agrees. "The Constitution of the country gives the right to peaceful protest to any aggrieved citizen. However, the respective governments snatched that right in the garb of various laws. This was not only undemocratic but also unconstitutional. So, the farmers of Punjab with their peaceful protest have not reclaimed the lost democratic space but they have reclaimed democracy," he says.

"Chandigarh is the capital of Punjab and Delhi of the whole country. We have regained the right to protest in the national capital," says Raman, a student who works for the Students for Society in Chandigarh.



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