ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Participation: Deprivation and Protest

There is increasing evidence to indicate that protest and dissent are not the activity only of the irrational and opportunistic sectors of society. They represent a particular mode of political participation chosen by those of the citizenry who, stilt retaining notions of personal effectiveness, feel that the system can and must be hurried, or pushed, into action.

Election-time is a time for a redefinition of the self and society: it is an exercise In the mobilisation of sentiment. Inadvertently perhaps — but invariably — it provides a setting for the surfacing of collective anxieties. Several of the issues that will manifest themselves during the campaign period will of course be familiar from past elections; but, this may be our first election in which problems of internal law and order, of permissible quantities and qualitative modes of dissent are likely to emerge as major issues. The latent insecurity, especially of the nouveau riches, is more than likely to be translated into political and electoral terms. Demands, rather than debate, may be the emergent political style. It should not be surprising if we encounter in the coming months a harsh, even repressive, tenor injected into the usual combativeness of electoral political discourse. As the volume of political communication between candidates and prospective supporters Swells, and larger numbers of the citizenry are inducted into participating in the electoral process, an increase in the types of available participatory modes is also manifesting itself. Political participation, generally considered to be symbolic of the extensiveness to which democratic ideals are applied, also includes a dimension which, in fact, lies outside the scope of constitutional activity. In this respect mass protests have become a conventional — if not legal — form of participation, and, needless to say, have engendered mixed reactions from specialists In public affairs, the administration, and the public at large. It if that Protests and agitations are becoming increasingly political; that they are becoming Increasingly "programmed", standardised in terms of techniques; and that they are closely linked with the organisational capacities of the political groups which sponsor them. Moreover even as one can say that the total magnitude of agitations and protests have increased in both rural and urban areas, it is clear that the urban is usually better organised, more pervasive and has more staying power. Above all, given the type of communication networks which we have, these urban protests are also the more visible, and thus may evoke the most reaction — both from the public at large, and the government in power. The increasing tendency of political parties toward fragmentation, with its concomitant multiplication of political messages, means that the same people — that is, the general electorate — are increasingly subjected to a wider choice in the form of multiple electoral appeals. Political expression and issues thus appear to be coming closer to the felt anxieties of the people; and in a sense, hitherto unpolitical dimensions of life have gained political salience. In this process, ideology, at least for the short run, has a tendency to become devalued. Instead of political parties garnering beliefs and values, politics becomes more action-oriented. Resentments are nurtured and cultivated; and much of the nurturance takes place, not on an artificial basis, but because the grievances cultivated exist in fact. Fragmentation of political parties facilitates their listening in where no one was listening before. In other words, instead of politics remaining a remote activity, it becomes immediate and actable.

From Protest to Terror

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