June 14, 2024

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The big protests of the world in the year 2020, which became the headlines of the world

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The year 2020 witnessed several protests – a few of them moving online as well, evolving the nature of demonstrations. Have a look at few of the prominent ones

The Coronavirus pandemic is likely to go down as the single-biggest global event in human history. Governments across the world imposed lockdowns & restricted activities for people to save them from the virus which has led to the loss of over 1.7 million innocent lives. Originating in the world’s second-largest economy and exacting the most severe toll on the biggest, COVID-19 spared no. And yet, people found ways to express themselves collectively when they needed to, battling perceived injustice, striving for the causes that matter to them. In many cases, they managed to bring about great change by taking the online route and evolving the nature of demonstrations. As the year comes to an end, we look at the most prominent protests that will be remembered for the years to come.

Black lives matter

Widespread demonstrations took place for weeks on end across the United States following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in Minneapolis while he was being brutally restrained by police. Floyd died in handcuffs on May 25 while a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air and stopped moving. The protests soon became an international Black Lives Matter movement spreading through multiple continents highlighting racial discrimination. Given that the US elections were right around the corner, the movement also became a rallying point for pro- and anti-Trump people, but in its scope and historical significance not just in America but across the world, it was more than that.

Protests in PoK against China

In August, massive torch rallies were held in Muzaffarabad city of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to oppose the mega-dams to be constructed by Chinese conglomerates on the Neelum-Jhelum River. The protesters chanted slogans like “Neelum-Jhelum behne do, humein zinda rehne do” (let the Neelum and Jhelum rivers flow, let us live) The all-weather allies had signed agreements to construct Azad Pattan and Kohala Hydropower Projects in PoK as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on July 6.

• Pakistan Democratic Movement

With an aim to oust the ruling Prime Minister Imran Khan-led PTI from power, the Opposition in Islamabad founded the Pakistan Democratic Movement. It was formed in September by 11 political parties, including the rivals – the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) headed by Bilawal Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by former PM Nawaz Sharif, but currently headed by his daughter Maryam .

In the past months, Imran Khan has stepped up his efforts to silence the voice of PDM along with thousands of people who criticized the government. Despite such attempts, the PDM has held five such rallies in Multan, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta since October 16. The 11-party alliance has already begun the second phase of anti-government protest to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government by January 31. What makes this protest remarkable is that it has entailed open criticism of Pakistan’s politically-powerful army and deep state. Both Bhuttos and the Nawaz Sharif have suffered at the hands of the army, and have must have significant support against its purported puppet Prime Minister.

Anti-Netanyahu protests

In Israel, protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are regularly being held for more than six months now, demanding his resignation over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to remove him from office.

The largest weekly demonstrations are held on Saturday evenings in Jerusalem across from Netanyahu’s Residence on Balfour Street. Protests were also held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and outside Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, where Netanyahu received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on live television on December 19, the first Israeli to be vaccinated. His already unstable government has fallen, however, and it remains to be seen how Israel emerges from the political crisis.

• Chilean Spring ‘

The protests in Chile were originally triggered by a rise in the Santiago Metro’s subway fare and split over into 2020. Also dubbed as the ‘Chilean spring’, the protests soon became a much wider movement denouncing inequality in Chile, the high costs of healthcare and poor funding of education. The 2019 riots left 30 dead and thousands injured.

A demonstration to mark the one-year anniversary of last year’s mass protests devolved into riots and looting. At least 30 people were arrested as Chilean police attacked anti-government protesters in Santiago on December 18, turning water cannons and tear gas on crowds blocking a highway. They had taken to the streets to demand the resignation of President Sebastian Pinera and the release of those jailed during the October 2019 protests, who the protesters regard as political prisoners.

• Belarusian protests

Anti-government protests in Belarus have been going on for more than 140 days now demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. People in the country and around the world have denied the presidential election in August as rigged and believe it was Lukashenko’s main rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who really won the majority of the votes. The demonstrations began in the lead-up to and during the 2020 primary election, in which Lukashenko sought his sixth term in office.

The protesters have over the past few weeks changed their tactics to avoid large-scale detentions by instead turning up for numerous smaller protests across town. According to the Minsk-based Viasna Human Rights Center, more than 30,000 people have been detained since the protests first broke out in August, and thousands of them have been brutally beaten in custody. At least four people have died purportedly.

• Farmers’ protests in India

Thousands of protesting farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at three Delhi border points – Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri – for more than 30 days, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws enacted by the BJP government at the center in September and legal guarantee for MSP.

The three farm laws have been projected by the center as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the “mandi” (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The Center on Monday invited the 40 protesting farmer unions for the next round of talks on December 30 on all relevant issues to find a “logical solution” with “open mind” to the prolonged impasse. The fifth round of talks was held on December 5, while the sixth round was originally scheduled for December 9 was called off after an informal meeting of Home Minister Shah with some union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.

The government had, however, followed up Shah’s meeting with a draft proposal sent to the unions in which it had suggested 7-8 amendments to the new laws and written assurance on the MSP procurement system. It has anticipated out a repeal of the three agri laws, though it appears to be ready to acquiesce to other demands.

Justice for Sushant Singh Rajput protests

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput, 34, who made his silver screen debut in the critically acclaimed ‘Kai Po Che’ seven years ago, was found dead in his apartment in suburban Bandra in Mumbai on June 14. The CBI had taken over the probe from Bihar Police into the alleged abetment to suicide case filed by the actor’s father KK Singh in Patna against Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty and her family. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are also probing the case.

Thousands of the late actor’s fans have been protesting demanding justice for the late actor. ‘SSRians’ have been planning and organized various initiatives across the nation, raising their voice for ‘justice’, seeking to know the truth of his death. Sushant’s sister Shweta Singh Kirti has been in the forefront leading movements like ‘CBI for SSR’, ‘Justice for SSR’ and more. The first digital protest seeking justice for the late actor # Candle4SSR held on July 22, saw the participation of two million people across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as claimed by the organisers. Several digital protests have taken place since then.

• Anti-CAA protests

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enacted by the center last year in December triggered a pan-India stir at the beginning of the year. The protests first began in the states of Assam and spread rapidly in several other states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Tripura, Meghalaya.

‘The objective of the CAA is to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities – Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christians – from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. People from these communities who had come to India till December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution in these countries will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

However, the amendment has been widely criticized as discriminating on the basis of religion, particularity for excluding Muslims. The anti-CAA protests last year led to curfews across a few states and suspension of mobile internet services in some places as well. The national capital also witnessed bloody riots – killing 53 and injuring over 200, as per official figures.

A sit-in protest by a group of around 100 residents in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh snowballed into one of the largest and most prominent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the country. The citizens blocked the roads for more than 100 days before eventually clearing the site as the government imposed lockdown in March to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. A similar protest was also witnessed in Mumbai’s Agripada which was termed Mumbai Bagh as well. This went on for 56 days.

Hong Kong protests

Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a new national security law that took effect June 30. The law outlaws subversive, secessionist, and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the budget internal affairs. The US and Britain accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms, and the US has imposed sanctions on government officials in Hong Kong and China over the law.

Pro-Beijing administration in recent times has launched a crackdown against pro-democracy activists and politicians, and have several arrests since the passing of security law. People have been arrested for displaying or chanting slogans deemed as advocating independence from China. The law came into effect from July 1.


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