One of the suggestions floated about during the protests against the Delhi gang-rape was the idea of boycotting the upcoming annual Republic Day parade on January 26.
It was seen as a good follow-on to the muted New Year celebrations in Delhi. It will also, it was said, deliver a strong message to the government about the seriousness of the situation. The idea had a fair share of supporters and also saw an immediate backlash as well.
The plan is only half-serious and is unlikely to amount to anything. But it is still an interesting premise to consider - should protests encompass or avoid that which is symbolic of India?
In this specific case, opposition to the idea comes mainly from the point that the parade is not representative of any specific government at any particular time. Rather, it is a feature of the nation. The boycott against the parade is seen as an unpatriotic move that insults the country.
The extreme angle of this argument equates this boycott to the routine boycott of the Republic Day by Kashmiri separatists and Maoists. The social media sphere, especially facebook, is full of claims that as Indians, it is our duty to show support for the parade.
Those for the boycott have a less shrill rhetoric. They argue that it is a token move to show the depth of anger against the government and the present social situation.
Some clarifications, in the spirit of keeping the debate civilized and less emotionally charged, needs to be given.
It is possible to disagree with what the country is as a whole, without being a separatist.
Armed terrorism against the state is not the same as a demand for change. Superman could not make that leap in logic - so far is the gap between the two sides.
We need to stop tossing around terms like 'terrorist', 'separatist' and 'anti-Indian' for every protest or social reform. This not only cheapens the grave threat real terrorists, separatists and Maoists pose, but also unnecessarily raises the temperature of civil movements by transforming it into a question of patriotism and loyalty to the motherland.
One does not gain or lose the right to peacefully protest/make demands depending on whether one has watched a parade or saluted a flag within a pre-determined period of time.
We have the right because this is India and we are her Indians.
If some people feel that the entire system as a whole needs to be changed and want to indicate that feeling by peacefully boycotting a symbolic parade, then they may freely do so without their integrity coming into the question.
However, if the boycott is not against the established system, but only against the current crop of politicians, parties, police procedure etc, then the parade should be respected.
Whether you personally boycott the parade or not is your prerogative. (Assuming you even watch/attend it every year.)
But before you make your choice, ask yourself this question - does India need to change or just her Indians?
PS: Then again, if you belong to that majority of Indians who do not even watch the parade on television...well you can just go back to sleep.
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