Protests are a vital aspect of the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural life of every society. Protests have a long history of inspiring social change and human rights progress, and they continue to do so around the world, helping to define and preserve civic space. Protests help citizens become more engaged and well-informed. Allowing citizens to directly influence public policy which in turn is a key component of representative democracy. People and organisations can voice their grievances, discuss their ideas, and call attention to problems with government by holding officials and other powerful entities accountable for their actions.
It was Mahatma Gandhi, or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who taught the Indian people how to use peaceful protest to achieve their goals. So, whether it was the Swadeshi Movement of 1905 or the Satyagraha of 1930, these peaceful protests against colonial rule impacted the history of the nation. India as a sovereign,Independent state owes its existence to it. One must keep their duties or responsibilities in a democratic democracy in mind when exercising their right to peaceful protest.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Constitutional Protection Available To Right To Protest
Article 51A makes it a fundamental duty for every person to safeguard public property and to avoid violence during the protests and resorting to violence during public protests results in infringement of key fundamental duty of citizens.
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution elucidates that right to free speech and expression. It includes that every person has right to express their personal opinions but subjected to reasonable restrictions.
Article 19(1)(b) states about the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. Thereby, right to peaceful protest is bestowed to Indian citizens by our Constitution.
Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to assemble peaceably and without arms and to freedom of speech and expression as none of these rights are absolute in nature.
sovereignty & integrity of India,
the security of the State,
friendly relations with foreign States,
decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court,
Defamation or incitement to an offence.
Protests should not be considered as an issue with law and order, but rather as a sign of a functioning democracy. It shows the political awareness of the people, which is critical since it keeps politicians in check.
People are democracy's core; it is the masses that keep democracy in check. The right to protest is a cornerstone of fundamental rights, along with the freedom of speech and expression. As the old saying goes, democracy is for the people, by the people, and of the people, which is meaningless in the absence of an understanding of the masses' desires. The right to protest is a means of expressing dissatisfaction with any public policy or of expressing one's aspirations.
However, every right entails a responsibility. The right to protest is accompanied by a responsibility to uphold public decency and to be exercised in such a way that it does not undermine the very reason for which it was established, namely to serve as a voice for the unheard. It must not be motivated by communal, sectarian, or divisive causes. Not only is protesting a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, but it is also a moral obligation. While the right to protest is critical to India's democracy's survival, it cannot be absolute and must be subject to reasonable limitations. When public protests devolve into violence, they undermine the protest's basic goal. Violence entails no good and must be avoided at all costs. Neither should the government resort to brutal suppression of protests and nor should citizens commit to unlawful violent acts even in the name of a good cause, Mahatma Gandhi once said that victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat for it is momentary.
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”― Martin Luther King Jr