What is a revolution?
The popular definition is, “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.” For a revolution to be successful, it needs a few key ingredients that separate it from becoming an outbreak of outrage, and then dissipating into splinter groups and finally evaporating without a trace. There got to be some meaning in all the madness that would help a revolution to take shape, grow and achieve its objective. More often than not revolutions fizzle out over time and people are left even more disgruntled and disappointed.
A revolution must have the basics in place. Study has thrown up some of these common traits usually found in revolutions.
Goal: This is the core around which the revolution grows. A crystal-clear goal or direction is required. For this, deep rooted questions should be addressed - why should there be a revolt against a certain government and what change in system is to be ushered in.
Support Base: For a revolution to move ahead, mass support is a vital requirement. Traditional methods like leaflets and banners are often used to garner support. Social Media today has replaced most orthodox modes.
What and How: Both these aspects need to be based on majority and positive approach to suggestions. The issues must be popular in nature and so must also the means.
Discipline: Handling emotions and anger for a large group is an asking task. Yet both have to be kept in check to avoid the movement becoming violent or chaotic. This calls for strong leadership.
Action: Perhaps the most important part of any movement is to give it expression and send a message to the current regime. Physical confrontation or any violence is to be avoided.
Solidarity and Popularity: The voice has to be that of the majority to sustain if the movement is to sustain. Also demonstration of popularity helps to send a strong message and is inclusive in nature too.
Revolutions of recent times have attracted a lot of attention and have had a Domino effect as well. Some could sustain while some were aborted.
Jasmine Revolution got its name from Tunisia’s national flower. Mass uprising from December 2010 in Tunisia led to the overthrowing of the President. The issues that galvanized the movement were: unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech and poor living conditions. The revolution was successful in ushering in change but voices of discontentment are beginning to be heard again.
In Brazil, protestors who poured onto the streets in June 2013, carrying a bottle of vinegar (breathing through a cloth soaked in vinegar neutralises the effect of tear gas). Their protest was against police brutality, government corruption, lousy public services and “funk alto no busão” (roughly: loud boom boxes playing atrocious funky music in the bus). In Brazil the protests moved from Vinegar to Salad, but. Many felt lack of direction and leadership was the reason for Brazil’s mass movement getting diluted and now relegated to spasms.
This movement literally ushered in springtime in ‘desert’ land - the Middle East countries. The movement was instigated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels may have had a hand as well. The other contributing factors that led to the protests were dictatorship, human rights violations, political corruption, economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population.
Leaders in the Arab world were falling like nine pins be it Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Turkey as the mass movement swept these countries. Egypt saw the revolution twice and now again a new search for governance has begun.
Occupy Wall Street
A leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions, the one thing participants of Occupy Wall Street had in common was that they refused to be cowed down by the exploitation of a rich few. They used the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve their ends and encouraged the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government.
Each of the above revolutions fell short of meeting their objective. They fell short in spite of the mass support and sentiments that got whipped up.
India experienced many mass movements in recent times. Whether it was the Janlokpal Satyagraha by Anna Hazare or the countrywide outcry after Nirbhaya incident, each of these movements was limited to a few days. Moreover, lack of consensus on crucial issues among the leadership ensured that the movements could not cross the final line.
Bengal too witnessed a mass movement that can definitely be termed as a revolution.
Maa Mati Manush
This was the clarion call that aroused an entire state (West Bengal) into awakening, a few years ago.
Does Bengal have a copyright over this theme or is it the call for the mother and motherland that have united people over centuries?
The issues in Tunisia or Egypt were not much different from that of Bengal. The Maa Mati Manush revolution took the democratic route and routed the Left Front government from the seat of power. Uncanny, but Jasmine spread its fragrance in Tunisia and Bengal in 2011.
However, a similar movement in China got crushed. Why?
The rational answer is definite – Bengal chose the democratic route.
There is a stark resemblance in protests between Brazil and Bengal. Perhaps boom box being the only exception, as protests here were against loud atrocities and real bullets were flying and not just tear gas shells. Unlike Brazil, Bengal did not dither. It had the direction and the leadership and it delivered.
The similarities with Arab Spring uprising are prominent as well. Unemployment and the indifference of the then regime brought people to join the Maa Mati Manush movement in Bengal. Spring came to Bengal, but through a democratic process; the fruits were ready in the summer of 2011 for all to cherish.
By definition, democracy must not mean simple majority rule. Frederick Douglass, the great American philosopher and abolitionist, described democracy as the process of taking turns. Bengal had got restless as the same government was returning to power decade after decade. Maa Mati Manush provided the perfect platform for people to voice their concern and move towards change.
Protesters in Egypt blamed the government for failing to tackle poverty, unemployment, inflation and debt, and the petition says that "no dignity is left" for Egyptians. The people of Bengal echoed the same during the latter half of rule of the previous regime. The debt burden is weighing the state down still.
So call it Ummi Turaab Quawm or Mãe Terra-mãe Pessoas it translates to Maa Mati Manush and the appeal is universal. It invokes the same feeling, the same outburst of emotions – it is a battle for survival and against oppression. For Bengal it is a path, a direction, an unflinching promise to its people to uphold the best interest of Maa Mati Manush before all else.
What made the Maa Mati Manush movement a winner, and now an on-going process, is its leadership, clarity in direction and upholding of democratic ways. This is what separates it from the contemporary movements and has catapulted it to a different league.