India is the world’s largest democracy. We have been bestowed with some of the most extensive rights in the world, enshrined in the world’s longest Constitution. However, there is still a long fight to go if we can ever call ourselves a truly equal nation. When the going gets tough, all we need to do is look into our past – the inspiration is right there.
Fight For Our Lives – Social Movements in India
Social movements in India have taken place over diverse issues. Sometimes they have divided us sometimes they have united us, but they have always stemmed from people wanting to be better and do better, and thus demanding better for everyone. Here are some key movements that you must know about as an Indian citizen –
The Independence Movement
The freedom we have today and so often take for granted was the outcome of a hard and long enduring battle against an imperial colonial power. While all of us learn about the contributions of key leaders, it is also important to learn about the ordinary people and their struggles. The independent movement became successful because normal people – students, workers, homemakers, and even children, stepped out to fight for their nation. It was their small acts of courage, done in defiance of the British Raj, that made our freedom possible. Today, the internet allows us countless ways to access these anecdotes and remember their contributions.
Long before sustainable development and the environment became one of the top concerns for humanity, village women from Uttrakhand were fighting against powerful leaders and companies to protect the forests from rampant exploitation, often hugging trees to prevent them from being cut down. Today, many ecological social movements in India trace their legacy to the movement, and the Chipko Movement has encouraged a more sustainable and environmental-friendly approach to the way we grow our societies and economies.
In December 2012, the country woke up to the horrible and shocking case of gangrape and torture of a 22-year-old student, named Nirbhaya by the press for her enduring fight against her brutal treatment. The case sparked one of the most massive protests India has seen since Independence, as the entire country raged against the treatment of women by society and the callous way the government and legal system allowed it to happen. The protests led to sweeping changes in the country’s laws regarding sexual violence, and opened the door to a much-needed conversation about women’s rights in the country.
The Movement Against Article 377
The infamous article of the constitution, a relic of our colonial past, effectively criminalized same-sex relations in the country. Though the social movement in India with respect to the LGBTQ+ community has often been sideswept, the issue came out to the public when the legal system struck down the Article, only to have it reimplemented later. The final battle played out in the Supreme Court, with the article being finally struck down in 2018. Though there is still a very long way to go, this legal battle provided much needed hope and changed the community needed in India.
Learning Our Lessons
There is no denying that India, like every other country in the world, has a lot of problems that need to be dealt with. It can be, at times, overwhelming for our protest, advocate, and demand change, especially when it seems like nothing improves at all.
But we must take courage and inspiration from the social movements in India of the past, which have shown us time and again that what matters is that we believe in things and stand together for it. Together, we can make a better place for everybody.