The Tiananmen square Beijing in its present condition
(Picture by Jafar Shameem)
The Arab Spring demonstration at Tahrir Square Cairo
(The first image is the peak of the demonstration at the square! The second image is the present day state, it is a traffic square!)
Two historical events identified by uprisings in two different countries were simplistically explained by most as cry for democracy in the face of oppressive rulers. However, a more nuanced understanding of these tragic events reveal the root causes that led up to the fateful confrontations.
The Arab Spring commenced when a Tunisian street vendor committed suicide by immolating himself. He had been harassed by police officers who attempted to shut down his business. This galvanized Tunisian protesters who took to the streets. They demonstrated against government corruption and Tunisia’s autocratic president. A month later, after 23 years in power, the ruler fled to Saudi Arabia.
The protests in Tunisia spread to neighboring countries, through the social media and other mobile devices. Anti-government demonstrations erupted in Bahrain, where protesters wanted the release of political prisoners and human rights reforms. Spread to Jordan and Kuwait, where their parliaments were dissolved in response to public pressure, to Libya, where a government crackdown on protesters which sparked a civil war and to Yemen, where massive protests forced its president to step down.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square was the site of 18 days of huge protests that brought together tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding the removal of their president. Eventually Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for 30 years, was forced out of office.
In Syria, where the peaceful Arab Spring, pro-democracy protesters were killed and imprisoned by the Government. The country split into factions and sectarian violence broke out, followed by Civil war inviting foreign intervention, which has failed to stop the war raging even now.
The goals of the spontaneous Arab Spring protesters have been denied, as autocratic governments regained power and cracked down on civil liberties. The ephemeral Arab Spring did achieve a catalytic objective.
In the words of Jamal Khashoggi, the slain Washington Post Correspondent from Saudi Arabia “The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring!””
There were many factors that led to the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, it essentially can be traced directly back a decade earlier to Deng Xiaoping’s 1979 “opening” to major economic reforms. A nation that had long lived under the strictures of Maoism and the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution was suddenly exposed to a heady taste of freedom. It resulted in growing economic prosperity, brought greater productivity and prosperity.
However, the subsequent shift in wealth became a contributing factor to an increasingly contentious gap between the rich and the poor. Many segments of society that had experienced extreme disenfranchisement during the Cultural Revolution and earlier CCP policies finally had a forum to vent their frustrations. Workers and peasants began to come to Tiananmen Square.
High levels of inflation, which was as high as 28%, aggravated agricultural problems, added fuel to the fire, escalating unrest. Chinese were also growing frustrated with the corruption they saw within the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
The last straw that galvanized the Tiananmen Square protests was the grief amongst the masses over the death of their incorruptible leader, Hu Yaobang. Genuine mourning turned into protesting against the government.
The crackdown by the Government vacated the Tiananmen square and with it perished the uprising and its participants. What did the protest achieve? Probably as a long-lasting impact on the democratic progress in China, as their system is nurtured by the fear of losing control over the masses. There are signs of hope for more liberal concepts based on constitutionalism and democratic participation.
There may be 15 scientific reasons for spring to be the most delightful season, however, to me the best are when I, after being cooped up in the snow laden winter, can finally stretch myself in the beautiful harmonious flower laden pleasant environment, hit the ball and enjoy the very pleasant weather on the golf course. I suppose others may be fans of other three other seasons. The bottom line though is that the spring season has become synonymous with the concept of boosting, invigorating, stimulating and energising persons of all ages. It does give opportunities and greater freedom for the meek, the downtrodden, the exploited, the harmed, and discriminated persons of the society to either spontaneously or in an organised manner express their resentments collectively, such as in the Arab Spring and Tiananmen square protest.
Are we currently facing a non seasonal spring in India? From the visual and the print media it does appear. The mass processions in most of the nooks and corners of the country are being targeted by the police in sustained ruthless and callous form. In any such confrontation supportive claims and counter are bound to be thrown in by the protestors and the Government. The Arab Spring and the Tiananmen Square agitations are proof of the loss of the injuries and loss of life to the very citizens who have either supported or voted their rulers. In a democracy a ruler has to remain non partisan. Are they? My humble submission is from my close association with my friends of different regions and religions, please do peruse it.
The ruling dispensation may continue to harp that the CAA does not to deny citizenship to anyone but it gives it to persecuted minorities from our neighbouring countries.
The population register which was initiated earlier may be a step in the right direction. Why does the minority remain totally alienated to accept these? The writing has been on the wall eversince the concept of Hindu Rashtra was advocated by the Party in power ruling the central government.
It is the perception of the Ruling Party amongst the Muslims which is the reason for their angst and revolt. The Ruling Party has leaders who have blood stains on their hands and have undertaken illegal and unholy expedients to escape the hands of law. Whatever they do, it is always considered by Muslims with suspicion and distrust. To further aggravate the situation, these Party leaders are very comfortable in promoting further hate and divisiveness to stay in power.
I do not totally blame these power hungry anathemas, for Muslims too have a major role in providing them opportunities to spread the venom. About 15 years back I wrote ‘Slender Trail’ wherein I have mentioned the amount of money and effort Saudi Arabia has spent in promoting their version of Islam. That has borne bitter fruit in the Sub continent. Many untoward incidents leading to loss of property and lives were performed by the indoctrinated bigots. These have seriously antagonized the masses and afforded an opportunity to the Bhakts to promote hate and vengeance.
Sadly a few of my close Muslim friends with army background have fallen victims to this distorted and revolting version. My unpretentious plea to my Muslim friends, please do not resort to violence or any such untoward activities. Amongst us we have many non Muslims who are not in favor of these opportunists who are ruling the country. Their contradictions will soon catch up and the masses will throw them out of power.
Let the courts decide CAA whether the bill is in conflict with the Constitution.
Before moving on to Vasant Panchami, I am taking the liberty of of leaving behind a point of view for your consideration. The present crisis is as a result of mixing religion with politics. The constitution permits every individual to practise his or her religious beliefs in the manner they want to. However, the ground reality today is totally different. Political parties are exploiting the sentiments of the masses in the name of religion on account of which we have witnessed very many catastrophes over the past years. In the name of religion the politicians are endangering the integrity and the unity of the country!
Can our Constitution be revisited and amended to ensure that the form substance and entity of a political party does not have any religious agenda, bias, name, content, motives, topics and matter? Can politicians be punished for speaking or writing on religious issues for promoting themselves or their parties?
I know it is a very tall wish and order! However, one does live on hope!
We know that Vasant Panchami marks the preliminary preparations for the arrival of spring. It also heralds start of preparation for Holika and Holi, which takes place forty days later. It is the festival dedicated to goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of knowledge, language, music and all arts. She symbolizes creative energy and power in all its form, including longing and love (kama)
Can we leave the hatred and vilification behind and celebrate Vasant Panchami as we have done so far and not get overtaken by the Arab Spring or Tiananmen square tragedies?