Let's make space for more 'visible' demonstrations

Updated: Sep 24, 2019, 08:08 IST | The Editorial | Mumbai

While activists must certainly go by the letter of the law, heed must be paid to voices that say space for dissent, protest, agitations, or awareness rallies is shrinking in Mumbai

A picture of the trees at Aarey colony
A picture of the trees at Aarey colony

This paper highlighted a spate of protests across the city with reference to the Metro car shed. Activists were agitating about the government's decision to put a car shed in Aarey, necessitating the felling of more than 2,000 trees.

Since a month now, protests have intensified. Activists' claim that there is space elsewhere for a car shed (they have stated various alternatives) and it would save the Aarey trees and preserve the green lung in the suburbs. There have been reports about agitations everywhere. On Sunday, activists were stopped from holding their protest at Shivaji Park because permissions were not taken, said the cops.

While activists must certainly go by the letter of the law, heed must be paid to voices that say space for dissent, protest, agitations, or awareness rallies is shrinking in Mumbai.

This paper had carried a report about activists complaining about the official protest site in Azad Maidan. Ongoing Metro work has removed it from immediate eye-view.

Agitations are taking place in a space which has near zero visibility. Activists are talking about charge sheets filed and being forced to run to courts if they protest at certain sites. Protests must be peaceful and well-organised. Violence is unacceptable. At the same time, we must look at whether we do need to open up a more visible space for agitations, which are the lifeblood of a democracy. While one may agree or disagree with protesters, they must have a right to space which fulfills one of the tenets of a public protest — visibility.

A protest is more than just opposition. It opens up debate, it is about looking at the other side and must stimulate intellectual discourse and thought. Let us bring these to the forefront, they are an important part of civil society.

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