Obstacles to a genuine people’s movement

| by Milinda Rajasekera

( March 27, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A broad national movement to fight ‘imperialist interventions’ in the country is to be formed by representatives from various sectors in the country, says a media report. The organizers were to hold a seminar at the Public Library Auditorium on the theme to defeat imperialist interventions in the country?"

Buddhist monks from the National Sangha Council (NSC) stand outside the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka before handing over a petition at the end of a silent protest in Colombo March 21, 2012.
The initiative, no doubt, is timely and praiseworthy. Any national movement to promote national aspirations or combat threats to the country’s sovereignty and independence is indeed desirable. But the question that arises is whether the political and social environment prevailing in this country is conducive to the formation of truly national movements in which all sections of people would participate.

There is a plethora of organizations and a galaxy of persons committed to protecting and promoting justice and fair play in this country today. They express their views and protests against all kinds of injustice occurring in society in various ways. Some do it in writing to newspapers and to other publications; some speak at conferences and seminars; some oraganise and participate in protest demonstrations.

These exercises bring in expected results sometimes. But often they are ignored by responsible authorities. Some sections responsible for various injustices not only ignore objections and protests but condemn and adopt various methods to suppress such protests. They even resort to harassment and intimidation of such protestors. They also proceed to make various allegations those organising and participating in protest campaigns.

Obviously, there are many unfortunate incidents and events taking place in this country today that warrant public protests and demonstrations. There is a wide range of misdeeds and mischief committed by politicians, particularly of the ruling party. Killing and abduction of people; violation of citizens’ rights and denial of freedoms and increasing prices of goods and services are some among public grievances.

Most of these issues obviously are common problems affecting all sections of people. Yet there is no common approach or action over these matters.

Different sections of people stage public protests over different complaints from time to time. What is strange is that the same problem affecting all commonly is approached differently by different sections. The hike in prices of essential consumer goods, for instance, affects all sections of people. But while some protest against such increases, some other sections stage demonstrations in support of measures that cause such hikes. While some protest against violation of fundamental rights — another common problem — others are either indifferent or denounce those protesting against such violations.

What indeed is the reason for this dichotomy of approach? Obviously, it is the force of prejudices, preferences, affiliations, attachments and loyalties that most people are burdened with that determines their attitudes and approaches to various problems and issues. A person loyal to the ruling political party, for example, will not participate in protests or rallies against price hikes or human rights violations while those attached to opposition parties will eagerly take part in them. Even in various events regarding the present US resolution in the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, this difference in approach is observed despite appeals for participation in protest campaigns irespective of political, ethnic or religious differences.

There is a need, therefore, to find a way out of this irrational situation. The logical way out is for people to achieve true independence and freedom.It is not political freedom that we are generally concerned with. But it is freedom from prejudices and inordinate attachments that we have developed over the years. This, of course, is easier said than done. However, it is this required detachment that would enable us to look at problems and issues objectively, independently and impartially.

Our prejudices and attachments are so deep-seated that it is only a determined effort that could free us from these, generally irrational and negative fetters. The lacuna left after this detachment from negative thoughts has to be filled with principles that have great value for living fruitful lives and making society peaceful and harmonious. The surest antidote to evils springing from evils of prejudice is strict adherence to cherished values of democracy that show the proper way to conduct personal and administrative affairs.

It is no secret that the political and social environment that prevails today makes practice of democratic principles and values extremely difficult. Political and institutional systems specifically created for promoting democracy are subverted and made use of to serve personal and selfish interests. Ironically, the protagonists of democracy have become the worst violators of democratic principles. Political parties, for instance, are formed for furthering principles of democracy. Some of these parties in this country have been rendered ineffective as a result of deviation from democratic principles.

The formation of a real people’s national movement, in this context, however desirable it is, has become a difficult task. If such a movement is to be a genuine people’s movement, political parties and their leaders have to be debarred from leadership positions of such movements. The leaders of these movements should be persons with the ability to look at problems and issues objectively devoid of prejudice, malice, jealousy and hatred - an ideal proposition, no doubt.