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Hunger Strikes: How Effective Are They?

Posted on April 17, 2012 in Politics

By Anavil Jaiswal:

Since the dawn of human civilization, there have been instances when justice has been denied. Emotions have been played with, feelings hurt and hearts broken, leading the masses to retaliate, be vengeful and to let out an outburst. The evoked sentiments strike deep. Earlier, the situation used to ignite battles, however with the gradual civilization of mankind, we stand today in times where pacific ways are preferred; one of the prevalent ones is people uniting for a hunger strike. It is a common notion that spending days together, rejecting all forms of food, will leave a lasting effect on the authorities, worthy of mark. It is a strategy of selling pain.

The root cause, or more presumably, the seed cause for such protests lies in the irrational decisions made by the more potent. The worse case happens when the authority gets deliberate, when positive change is hampered in the name of so-called absurd political reasons. Ah! It is intelligible enough that how political this politics is which makes it an impediment in the path of the welfare of the society. The strikes bring integral loss of time, money, energy, potential, health, etc.; consequently creating a widespread turmoil. Even when the strikes last longer, they snatch away the lives of the protestors as in the Irish hunger strike of 1981, which costed ten lives. Indian seer Swami Nigamanand went on a fast unto death in 2011, which did last till his unfortunate demise. In the early 20th century few suffragettes in the British prisons lost their lives when subjected to force-feeding.

The question which remains unanswered is do such protests really help? If yes, then how much and how soon? It is an endeavour to call off the strikes, always in all ways. Though in the past, authorities are observed succumbing to the demands of the protestors, it cannot be made sure or rather hoped much for the similar outcomes, at present as well as in the times to come. Even if some success is achieved usually the cost is too high to be paid for, like when the political prisoners in Turkey protested in 1984, four lives were lost. On May 25, 1972, Pedro Luis Boitel, a Cuban dissident and an imprisoned poet, after being on a strike for 53 days, died of starvation. The cost of human life is incalculable; this is a quandary in which it is almost impossible to decide if the protest resulted out to be worthy enough.

Civilization will gain better support for its existence if we modify our surroundings in such a way that the need for any strike is diminished or rather eradicated. It may tend to be Utopian, however, this is what we personally strive for, let’s take it to a mutual and a comprehensive level. It will be done. It can be done.