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Protests: A Tale as Old as Time—A Talk It Out Session

The year 2020 has taught us an invaluable lesson—to question everything around us. It was seen quite prominently in the form of protests and public dissent all around the world. What does such a seemingly global sentiment say about notable democracies and what does humanity stand to gain from such acts of dissent? These were but a few of the questions that participants of Talk It Out Tuesday explored in its latest edition—’Protests: The Art of Dissent’. Organised by Blank 101 on 12th January, 2021 via Google Meet, the event presented a platform for attendees to put forth any thoughts and enable open discussion on the topic.

“We, at Blank 101, seek to tell people that public speaking is not really scary and certainly not restricted to the stage. You can make any part of the world your stage if you are comfortable enough. You do not need fancy vocabulary, skills or equipment. All you need is a want to speak,” said Anusha YG, President of Blank 101, while explaining the ideology behind the Talk It Out event series. Moderated by Siddharth Kashyap and Swagat Sarkar, thirty-two people turned up to contemplate what drove people to protest in a year ravaged by the pandemic.

The discussion was initiated by citing some notable protests the world witnessed in this past year. From the Belarusian Protests to Poland’s demonstrations, from the CAA-NRC protest to Farmer-bill agitations, their intents and the key stakeholders in each of these instances were covered at length. Talking about the participants of such protests, Aaryan Iyer, a fervent participant, remarked that it was the “oppressed minority and later, built on by the majority who agrees and sympathises with the cause.” 

Enthusiastic participants of the Talk It Out event expressed their views on the intricacies of the art of dissent.

Protests have existed as an integral part of people’s lives for as long as democracies have been around. However, what makes a protest successful? In Vratin Srivastava’s words, a demonstration fulfils its objectives when there is “high participation, high allyship and a lot more awareness.” The conversation moved on to discuss the role of social media and memes in the advancement of protestor’s beliefs through political subtleties. The contribution of traditional media and news outlets in the unionisation, or rather polarisation of masses, was also addressed. Siddharth Kashyap, the moderator of the event, pointed out, “The Union Minister stepped down against the three farmer bills, but it was scarcely covered at the time. The media prioritised SSR’s cook instead.” Censorship, bias, and the echo-chamber traits of social media combined with the power exercised by the media in general over happenings across the country were also discussed.

The floor was then opened up to debate the different forms in which public dissent manifests itself in— peaceful and violent. After much contention, the participants agreed that peace and violence remain two sides of the same coin. Peaceful protest can turn violent in no time. For an impactful demonstration, civil inconvenience is an unfortunate necessity. The Black Lives Matter Movement was brought up several times during the evening, being a textbook case on the matter at hand.

After almost two hours of rallying opinions back and forth, the consequences of protests were examined. Ultimately, all participants were on the same page on the necessity of protests in the democratic process. “Protests are for the collective, not individualistic selfish reasons. It is about the willingness to sacrifice oneself so that the coming generations lead a better life than their own”, summarised Aaryan Iyer, in his closing statement.

The Talk It Out Tuesday session was a highly engaging event where every participant was persuasive in their arguments. Relying mainly on their Instagram for publicity, the execution of the event was not lacking in any way as the moderators ensured that the flow of conversation was always headed in the right direction. Sessions like these definitely pave way for more interactive and intriguing discussions in the future. 

Featured Image Credits: Blank 101