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

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The Nature of Recent Media-Fuelled Movements

There is an inherent problematic in the media-fuelled protests and street demonstrations - these are characterised by depoliticised demands and fragmented mobilisations, played to create an "echo chamber" effect for the media's purposes. However, it is not as if they do not create a space for expanding popular struggle, something that progressives should be aware of and must utilise.

In 2011 and 2012, a set of protests took place across India that has resulted in confused responses from the left and right alike of the political spectrum. The best-known examples of this wave were the anti-rape protests of December 2012 and the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption protests in 2011 and 2012, but such protests have occurred in the past and are likely to become more common. The debate revolves around those who defend these mobilisations as “spontaneous” expressions of “people’s anger” with the political system, promising a “new politics”, and those who dismiss them as being “middle class”, urban, reactionary and irrelevant. The resulting divide often crosses traditional political lines.

But neither of these positions adequately captures the nature of these protests. Commentators who criticise them as irrelevant and “middle class” ignore some of their undoubtedly significant features – their wide geographic spread; their tendency to become flashpoints for public perception and debate; and the fact that they seem to both articulate and create a new “common sense”. Those who support these movements as expressions of “people’s anger”, however, face even more difficulties. In particular, why did these “spontaneous” protests happen at this particular time? How is it that these ostensibly historic protests have so little concrete impact? Moreover, if one believes that these protests were a reflection of overall “popular anger”, one has to contend with the fact that the numbers were actually not very large (by Indian standards), and were undeniably limited in their social base.

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