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The people’s movements and protests that defined the decade

The protests against discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of citizens that started in many parts of Assam and by students of Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University have now engulfed the entire nation.

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The people’s movements and protests that defined the decade

The decade 2010 to 2019 saw some major people’s movements and protests around the world that changed the course of history and redefined social and political landscapes of the time.

Occupy protests

The major financial crisis and growing inequality prompted Occupy Wall Street Protests that began in 2011. Their slogan was “We are the 99%” that referred to income and wealth inequality in the US between the wealthiest 1% population and the rest. Other areas of focus included greed, corruption, corporates being hand in glove with the governments and financial sector’s undue influence on the government. They demanded better and more jobs, bank reforms, relief from student debts, balanced distribution of income among other egalitarian reforms. The protestors were mostly young. They were met with surveillance, arrests and court cases.

The movement is closely related to and part of Occupy protests that were more international and aimed for social and economic justice and new forms of democracy. Occupy movement that began in the beginning of the decade took inspiration from the Arab Spring and 2009 Iranian Green Movement. The movement spread to many countries including the United Kingdom, Brazil (Vinegar movement), Canada, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, Turkey, South Korea, Spain, Ireland, Nepal (Baluwatar Satyagraha), Columbia, Cyprus, Malaysia (Occupy Dataran), France (Nuit debout), Armenia (Mashtots Park Movement) among others and focused on local issues and governments.

The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring that inspired a lot of these movements began in early 2010. It is characterized by anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellion that quickly spread throughout the Arab world – mainly the Middle East and North Africa. Human rights violations, political corruption, poverty, unemployment and rising inequality and concentration of wealth and power in a monarchy are some of the factors that led to the protests. These protests that were often violent and met with violent crackdowns began in Tunisia and quickly spread to other parts. By end of February 2012 rulers had been forced out of power in Tunisia (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali), Egypt (Hosni Mubarak), Libya (Muammar Gaddafi) and Yemen (Ali Abdullah Saleh). Civil uprisings and major protests had broken out in Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Sudan.

2012 Protests against Delhi gang rape

Horrific gang rape and consequent death of physiotherapy student in a bus in Delhi sparked massive outrage and protests all over India. The incident generated widespread coverage and condemnation nationally and internationally. Accused were arrested and sentenced to death. A judicial committee after considering over 80,000 suggestions submitted a report that subsequently formed the basis of the 2013 Criminal Amendment Act.

Ukrainian revolution

Also known as the Euromaidan Revolution or Revolution of Dignity in 2014 resulted in the ousting of the elected President Viktor Yanikovych. The protestors wanted restoration of the constitution of Ukraine to its original form. They originally erupted after Yanukovych refused to sign a free trade agreement with the European union. The confrontation soon took a violent turn and police fired first with rubber bullets and later with live ammunition and tear gas. The protestors responded with rude weapons. It is estimated that 75 people lost their lives.

Me Too

Another movement where personal became political was resurfacing of Me Too (the term was first used in 2006) to bring about shared stories of sexual harassment and assault faced by women all over the world. The hashtag started trending after used by American actor Alyssa Milano to give a sense of the “magnitude of the problem”. The trend came in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s case and soon experiences of sexual harassment and assault started pouring in from all over the world showing the myriad and pervasive ways patriarchy functions in workplaces, public spaces and homes. Social media played a huge part in making the movement global. Many men in India and globally were brought to book and the movement went a long way in creating safe, non-judgmental and inclusive spaces for women to get the conversation started.

Yellow vests movement

This grassroots movement that began in France aimed for economic justice. It was initially motivated by rising fuel prices and high cost of living and rebelled against the disproportionate burden of government taxes that fell on the working and middle classes. Protests have spread outside France with protestors adopting yellow vest as symbols.

Hong Kong protests

As the year ends the protests in Hong Kong against plans to allow extradition to mainland China are ongoing. Protestors fear this can undermine judicial independence and risk exposing Hongkongers to unfair trials and violent treatment. Bill has been withdrawn. Other demands include protests not be characterise as a riot, amnesty for arrested protestors, independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, and implementation of complete universal suffrage. The clashes between policemen and protestors have become increasingly violent and support has poured in globally for the protestors.

A year that saw massive street protests globally

Anti CAA/NRC protests in India

The protests against discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of citizens that started in many parts of Assam and by students of Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University have now engulfed the entire nation with support for the protestors coming from all corners of the globe – the statement of solidarity for students has acquired over 10,000 signatories from over 1,100 universities. The protests have so far resulted in thousands of arrests and 27 deaths. Section 144 prohibiting assembly of more than four individuals and the shutdown of internet services has been used by the state. The Supreme Court has heard 60 petitions challenging the Act. Foreign nationals have been deported from India for taking part in the process. Protestors have used social media, poetry, art, songs, sit ins, sloganeering and hunger strikes for protests. Many prominent activists, writers, filmmakers, actors, academics, civil servants have spoken out and faced arrests. Political parties like the Indian National Congress on their foundation day coined the slogan “Save Bharat-Save Constitution”.

Latin American Protests

Also termed as Primavera Latinoamerica 2019 (Latin American Spring) describes a series of civil disobedience movements across the continent against austerity measures and political corruption in the region.

Global Climate Strikes

Also known as the Global Week for Future, were a series of international strikes and protests to demand action be taken to address climate change. It took place in September across 4,500 locations in 150 countries. The event was part of a school strike for climate movement that was inspired by Swedish climate activist young Greta Thunberg. It is estimated that up to 7.6 million people participated, with September 20th protests likely the largest climate strike protests in history at the participation of over 4 million people. The protests spread globally with many politicians joining the cause. More than 2,000 scientists in 40 countries pledged to support the strikes.

Swati Saxena is a researcher at a non-profit organisation. She has a PhD in Public Health and Policy from University of London and MPhil in Development Studies from University of Oxford. She tweets at @SwatiSaxena1231

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