Monday, April 26, 2021

Fights, Causes and Protests: Righteous or Not?

We witness many types of fights and protest across the world and in India.  We see people fighting against Farm Bills, some fighting against CAA+NRC, some people participating in Black Liberation Movement protests, some in Hong Kong Protests, and so on.  We see people protesting for various causes.  When we witness these protests, sometimes we get this vague feeling that not every cause is the same.  Some causes, we believe are really worth fighting for, a righteous one, and some others, we somehow find it not to be righteous.  So, how do we decide what is a righteous fight and what is not?

There are 5 different types of fights.

1. Fight for oneself

These are the fights for one self and one's family. One’s interests, rights and privileges. Example: Someone fighting for water at home, for electricity at home, for one's job, for one's individual rights.

2. Fights for other person

These are the fights for justice to another person.  Example: People fighting for freeing a journalist, for rights of an artist or a painter, for justice for Jessica Lal.

3. Fight for one’s group identity

These are fights for one's group rights, for one's group justice.  A Dalit fighting for Dalit's rights and representations. Telangana people fighting for separate State.  Blacks participating in Civil Rights Movement. Indians fighting for freedom from British. Women fighting for better laws to protect women.  Muslims against CAA+NRC.  Indian Farmers fighting against Farm Bills.

4. Fight for other group identities and universal injustices

There are fights for rights and privileges of other group identities, and sometimes for universal justices, such as fight against death penalty. These are done in support, in solidarity of other group identities, or for achieving universal justice.  Example: Whites fighting for Black rights. Hindus participating in CAA+NRC protests.  Non-farmers protesting with Farmers against Farm Bills. Fight against death penalty.

5. Fights to deny other people of their rights and privileges. 

There are fights which people take up to deny rights and privileges of other group identities.  Example: Whites protesting against integration of Blacks into colleges in US.  Upper Caste protesting against Dalits from drinking water from the village well, or men asking for removal of women's seats in buses.  Samaikyandhra Movement to stop formation of Telangana State.  Anti-reservationists seeking removal of reservations for lower castes.

Amongst all the above the first 4 are righteous protest, in the increasing order of righteousness, from 1 to 4. Fighting for oneself though righteous is still selfish, compared to fighting for another individual.  Fighting for one’s group identity, though righteous is still a bit selfish, compared to fighting for rights of other identities.

Whereas the 5th type is egregious one, the ugly kind, on all counts, because it is a fight to deny others of their rights, their privileges and their opportunities, and it is universally agreed that it not a righteous fight. It is a despicable one.

There is a chance that some of the fights that originate as category 1-4 may spill over into type 5, and that’s when it starts to become problematic.  For example a fight for better climate may lead to coercive mandates on poorer countries where the poor get affected.  And that’s when it won’t be a righteous fight anymore.

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