Leonardo da Vinci had once said that “nothing strengthens authority so much as silence” and there could not have been a better year, in history, for millennials to observe this statement as a reality. Protests have long been a carrier of social revolution and a medium to overthrow anarchism.
Protests were organised all around the world in 2019, and it only reaffirms our faith in the collective of people. States, countries and the world are nothing without its people, and 2019 has been a year of responsible citizenry.
Dissent is common and uniform round the world. Whether it is a fight to spread awareness about climate change, stand against government policies or support human rights. Collectively, people lead the change by adapting different forms of expressions – slogans, candle marches, posters and hashtags on Twitter.
In one corner of the world, thousands of people expressed their discontent in a nation-wide anti-Sudanese government movement and on the other end, citizens of Hong Kong hit the road to oppose the extradition bill. India is no different than any other nation and has been taking the route of protests, to get the government to revoke the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
It is heart-warming to see women being at the centre stage of these crucial movements and not on the side-lines. A woman in a white dress, Alaa Salah, became the face of the Sudanese movement. The protests in Iran against the compulsory hijab were fuelled by an act of sheer bravery. An Iranian woman known as the Girl of Enghelabm, Vida Movahed, tied her hijab to a stick in Enghelab Street and waved it to the crowd as a flag.
During the protests against CAA in Jamia Millia Islamia, three women namely Ladeeda Farzana, Ayesha Renna and Chanda Yadav, who rescued their friend from police attacks, became an internet sensation as their video went viral. The #MeeToo movement against sexual harassment also picked up its pace in 2019 and has trended in at least 85 countries so far.
Students have been another major pillar in leading the change. One of the earliest and most significant students strikes at the University of Paris, in 1229, lasted for more than two years, yielded reforms in the university. The trend strengthened over the years and students around the world continue to stand against the wrongs.
In the ongoing protests against CAA in India, students from most of the educational institutes across the country, including the University of Hyderabad, Jadavpur University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Aligarh Muslim University, among others, stood in solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia.
Some of these protests have achieved their goals and some fights are still midway. However, to have a culture of dissent and protests will only help future generations have faith in the power of people.
Michele Obama in her final speech as the first lady of the United States had said, “You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. You need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation.”
From Sudan to India and Hong Kong to Iran, 2019 has witnessed a powerful display of people’s movements, especially from women and students. 2019 will always be known a year of dissent that helped public welfare to flourish across the world and added another chapter in the book of revolutions.
(Sheetal Banchariya is a Delhi-based journalist, who lives for books and coffee)