Indian political life has been plagued with agitations. The opposition parties agitate and take to the streets at the slightest excuse. Under the leadership of Mr. Prakash Narayan, agitation in Bihar was started in 1973 against increasing corruption in government offices, it’s wrong policies, rising prices, mass unemployment, bribery, hoarding etc. earlier there had been a similar agitation in Gujarat. The agitations continued over a long period of time. It resulted in much loss of life and property. Let us here examine if such violent agitations can serve any useful purpose, or they cause more harm than good. Public support to these agitations was mainly due to rising prices, shortages, hardship, starvation and the inability of the government to tackle the situation. People wanted a leader, who could change the conditions of the life and assure for them the essential commodities. At such a time Mr. Jai Prakash Narayan, a popular leader, got wide public support. There can be no drought about the sincerity and honesty of Mr. Narayan. His aims were quite appealing and sensible. But the forces which were working behind his movement were not so selfless. Opposition parties tried to use the movement again their own purpose. They were equally corrupt and selfish.
Students were called upon to leave the colleges for one year and devote all their time to the fight against corruption. But this call was not very far-sighted, for one year of a student is very important for his career. The indiscipline and disorder which resulted from such agitations were not taken into consideration. Normal peaceful life becomes impossible. There was looting and arson on a large scale. Economic condition of the people worsened. Increasingly it was realized that such agitations cannot remain non-violent for long. Anti-social elements take advantages of such agitations to serve their own ends. It was forgotten that such cult of the gun has no place in a democracy. Democracy implies the use of peaceful negotiations for settling disputes. The will of the people as expressed through elections has to be respected. Violence therefore is the very negation of democracy.
No doubt, in the beginning, J.P.’s movement started with the principle of non-violence, but soon it became, clear that the movement had gone out of his control. Agitators turned violent, tried to destroy public property, uproot railway lines, and burn post offices, banks, police posts etc. the government was thus compelled to open fire to maintain law and order. In this way, there was much loss of life and public property.
A movement which becomes violent can easily be suppressed because government has its own police and military. No government can tolerate violence or yield to threats. Only a leader of the stature of ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ can keep a public movement non-violent.
As a result of the movement, strikes, bands’, gheraos, etc. became the order of the day all over the country. Near chaotic conditions prevailed. The situation became so intolerable that the late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and her government were force to make a declaration of internal emergency on 26th June, 1975. For nearly two years there were no rights or liberties for the people. Those were dark days in the history of the country. But it was national emergency which brought the short-lived Janata Party to power, and uproot the congress. This was the only change that came out of the agitation. Otherwise, corruption remained as rampant as ever before.
This clearly shows that violent agitations can serve no useful purpose. There is no place for gun-cult in democracy. But the Indian politicians have not learn this lesson. Violent agitations still continue to mar Indian political and social life.