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Chapter 5 Popular Struggles and Movements Class 10 Civics NCERT Notes
People all over the world have mobilized themselves to organize movements to restore democracy or to strengthen the existing democratic system.
Movement for Democracy in Nepal
Nepal witnessed an extraordinary popular movement in April 2006. The movement was aimed at restoring Nepal was one of the “third wave” countries that had won democracy in 1990.
Although the king formally remained the head of the state, the real power was exercised by popularly elected representatives .King Birendra, who had accepted this transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was killed in a mysterious massacre of the royal family in 2001.
King Gyanendra, the king of Nepal, was not prepared to accept the democratic rule. He took advantage of the weakness and unpopularity of the democratically elected govt.
In February 2005, the king dismissed the then Prime Minister and dissolved the popularly elected Parliament. The movement of April 2006 was aimed at regaining popular control over the government from the king.
All major popular political parties in the Parliament formed a “Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and called for a four day strike in Kathmandu, the country’s capital.
The protest soon turned into an indefinite strike in which the Maoist insurgents and various other organizations joined hands. People defied curfew and took to the streets. The security found themselves unable to take on more than a lakh people to gather almost everyday to demand the restoration of democracy.
The number of protestors reached between 3 to 5 lakhs. On 21st April, they served an ultimatum to the king. The king had made a few concessions, however, the leaders of the movement rejected the concessions. They stuck to their demand of restoration of Parliament, power to all-party govt. and a new constituent assembly.
On 24th April 2004, the last day of ultimatum the king was forced to concede all the three demands. The SPA chose Girija Prasad Koirala as the new Prime Minister of the interim (temporary) government. The restored parliament met and passed laws taking away most of the powers of the king.
The SPA and Maoists came to an understanding about how the new constituent assembly was to be elected. This struggle came to be known as Nepal’s Second Movement for Democracy.
In 2008, the monarchy was abolished and Nepal became a federal democratic republic. In 2015, it adopted a new constitution. The struggle of the Nepali people is a source of inspiration to democrats all over the world.
Bolivia’s Water War
Bolivia is a poor country in Latin America where the people organized a popular struggle to strengthen democracy.
The World Bank pressurized the government of Bolivia to give up its control of Municipal water supply. The government sold these rights to a multi national company for the city of Cochabamba. The company immediately increased the price of water by four times. Many people received the monthly water bill of Rs.1000 in a country where the average income is Rs.5000 a month. This led to a spontaneous popular protest. The contract with the MNC was cancelled and water supply was restored to the municipality at old rates. This came to be known as Bolivia’s water war.
In January 2000, a new alliance of labour, human rights and community leaders joined a four day political strike in city. The government agreed to negotiate and the strike was called off. Nothing happened and so they protested again though they were brutally suppressed.
Another strike took place in April and the government imposed the martial law. The power of the people forced the officials of the MNC to flee the city and made the government to concede to all the demands of the protestors.
Democracy and Popular Struggles
- Both these are the instances of political conflict that led to popular struggles.
- In both cases, struggle involved mass mobilization.
- Public demonstration of mass support clinched the dispute.
- Both instances involved critical role of political organizations.
When is democratic conflict resolved through popular struggles?
Popular struggles take place when the country is going through transition to democracy, expansion of democracy or deepening of democracy.
Democratic conflict is resolved through mass mobilization. Sometimes it is possible that the conflict is resolved by using the existing institutions like parliament or the judiciary. But when there is a deep dispute very often these institutions themselves get involved in the dispute. The resolution has to come from outside, from the people.
These conflicts and mobilizations are based on political organizations. Thus there is an element of spontaneity in all such historic movements. But the spontaneous public participation becomes effective with the help of organized politics. There can be many agencies of organized politics. These include political parties, pressure groups and movement groups.
Mobilisations and Organisation
Various political parties (SPA), human rights groups and organizations of indigenous people such as teacers and lawyers extended their support to the popular struggle.
In Bolivia the popular struggle was led by FEDECOR which comprised of local professionals, engineers and environmentalists. Federation of farmers, factory workers, middle class students from university of Cochabamba and the city’s growing population of homeless and the street children. The movement against privatization of water was also supported by the Socialist Party. In 2006, this political party came into power in Bolivia.
The various ways in which people can make government to listen to their demands:
- One obvious way of influencing their decisions in democracy is direct participation in competitive politics.
- This is done by creating parties, contesting elections and forming government but every citizen does not participate so directly.
- They may have the desire, the need or the skills to take part in direct political activity other than voting.
- There are many indirect ways in which people can get govt to listen to their demands.
- They could do so by forming an organization and undertaking activities to promote their interest.
- These are called interest groups or pressure groups. Sometimes people decide to act together without forming organizations.
Pressure groups are organizations that attempts to influence govt. policies. But unlike the political parties the pressure groups do not aim to directly control or share political power.
These organizations are formed when people with common occupations,interests, aspirations or opinions come together in order to achieve a common objective.
Examples of the pressure groups:
- Farmers’ organizations: Bharatiya Kisan Union
- Trade Unions: AITUC-All India Trade Union Congress
- Business groups: FICCI-Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries
Sectional and Public Pressure Groups
Sectional Interest Groups: These are interest groups which promote interests, betterment and well being of a particular section of society. They work for the betterment of their members only. For example, trade unions, teachers’ associations, doctors’ associations. They are sectional because they represent a section of society.
Public Interest Groups: They are also called promotional groups as they promote collective interests rather than selective interests. They aim to help other than their own members. They represent common or general interests even though members of its organizations get no benefit from it. For example, FEDECOR In Bolivia, Human Rights Organisation in Nepal. Both these public interest groups share common concern for the entire country.
A movement attempts to influence politics rather than directly taking part in electoral competition. There are two types of movements. These are:
Issue Specific Movement: They seek to achieve a single objective within a limited time frame. Example, The Nepalese movement had a specific objective to reverse the king’s order. In India the Narmada Bachao Andolan is an issue specific movement which aims to stop the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river.
General movement: They seek to achieve broad goals in the long run involving more than one issue. Example, Environmental movement. General movements are also called multi issue movement. Sometimes these broad movements have a loose umbrella organization as well. Example, the National Alliance for Peoples’ Movement (NAPM) is an organization of organizations.
Pressure groups and movements exert influence on politics in a variety of ways:
They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activities by carrying out information campaigns, organizing meetings, filing petitions etc. Most of these groups try to influence the media into giving more attention to these issues.
They organize protest activities like strikes or disrupting governmental programmes. Workers’ organizations, employers’ organizations and most of the movements often resort to these tactics in order to force the govt. to take note of their demands.
Business groups often employ professional lobbyists or sponsor expensive advertisements. Some persons from pressure groups or movement groups may participate in official bodies and committees that offer advice to the government.
Relationship between political parties and pressure groups
In some instances the pressure groups are either formed or led by political parties or act as extended arms of political parties. For example, ABVP and NSUI which are popular students’ organizations in India are either established by or affiliated to one or the other major political party.
Sometimes political parties emerge out of movement. Example, Assam movement led to the formation of Asom Gana Parishad.
Political parties such as DMK and AIADMK can be traced to social reform movement.
At times movements raised new issues that have been taken up by political parties. Most of the new leaders of the political parties come from the interest and the movement groups.
Is their influence healthy?
It may initially appear that it is not healthy for groups that promote interest of one section to have influence in democracy. A democracy must look after the interests of all, not just one section. Also, it may seem that these groups wield power without responsibility.
Political parties have to face the people in elections, but these groups are not accountable to the people. Pressure groups and movements may not get their funds and support from the people. Sometimes, pressure groups with small public support but lots of money can hijack public discussion in favour of their narrow agenda.
Pressure groups and movements have deepened democracy. Putting pressure on the rulers is not an unhealthy activity in a democracy as long as everyone gets this opportunity. Governments can often come under undue pressure from a small group of rich and powerful people.
Public interest groups and movements perform a useful role of countering this undue influence and reminding the government of the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens.
Even the sectional interest groups play a valuable role. Where different groups function actively, no one single group can achieve dominance over society. If one group brings pressure on government to make policies in its favour, another will bring counter pressure not to make policies in the way the first group desires.
The government gets to hear about what different sections of the population want. This leads to a rough balance of power and accommodation of conflicting interests.