THW Ban hunger strikes.
Motion: THW Ban hunger strikes.
- Hunger Striking is a tool of leverage and although the government might deem disproportionate leverage as the reason to ban the same, it is essential to empower citizens with this tool. This will enable them to catalyze change in the state of governance as and when the incentives for the people and their representatives come in conflict.
- Governments have massive leverage over their citizens. States monopolize the right to violence and have access to infinite tools of propaganda and rhetoric to shape the public thought process. Over a period of time systemic problems like corruption transcend elected governments and become endemic to the people who form the governance structure irrespective of the political parties they belong to.
Such systemic flaws pit the interests of the citizens against the interests of the citizens; thereby log jamming any kind of reform to deal with these issues. For example, despite the huge corpus of black money (a large chunk of which belongs to the politicians) lying in the Swiss banks and the huge societal pressure on consecutive governments to act to make these politicians accountable and retrieve the money; there has been almost no action because it would put the very legislators in the pulpit. Moreover, India hasn’t even signed the UN charter against corruption which would facilitate an effort to retrieve the abovementioned money.
Therefore hunger strikes prove to be an essential tool of revolution which strengthens democracy.
The process and its consequences:
- Hunger strikes are a form of protest however; the differentiating factor is that unlike other forms where the government isn’t compelled to engage with the cause, hunger strikes compel the government to pay heed to the issues raised and respond.
Hunger strikes mobilises passive sentiments of the masses towards certain issues into active support. This helps apply pressure on the government to address the issue.
However, there are a multiple self check mechanisms to prevent the abuse of hunger strikes.
Firstly, the masses won’t blindly support any opportunist on a hunger strike as this will only garner support for people raising issues which the people deem pertinent. Given the fact that everyone has access to this as a tool of protest will result in only the most valid issues resonating with the masses, thereby generating enough momentum to build pressure on the government.
Hunger strikers like Medha Patkar during the ‘narmada bachao andolan’ will fail to gain any leverage as she did due to the citizens’ ability to discern the issues that affect their lives and in what manner.
Secondly, a knee jerk reaction by the government in the form of immediate compliance to the demands is unlikely because this would weaken the government’s position; thereby leaving it vulnerable to further such protests. The more likely outcome based on precedence would be that the government would indulge in public discourse on the issue and agree to look into the issue by setting up appropriate bodies for the same as seen with the protests for the “lokpal” bill (anti-corruption) and the “telangana” (bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh) issue where hunger strikes were used as a tool to gain the governments interest in those particular issues of high societal importance.
- Hunger strikes enable the people to propel changes in the governance and the social contract they are governed by as and when the society evolves to stages where change is a must or when systemic problems or endemic stagnation compromises the interests of the citizenry.
- This standard must be maintained as the government exists to serve the people and not vice-versa. All states are formed by the society for the purpose of protecting its interests. However, from time to time this ideology is reversed in practice as government apparatus in order to self perpetuate and self serve turn the citizens into tools of utility. Such circumstances are inherent and arise in every nation from time to time. Hence, hunger strikes must be maintained as a legitimate tool of protest for the citizens in order to ensure the evolution of the state, state structures and society for the mutual benefit of all the involved stakeholders.