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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Massive Protests Across India

 Thousands stage anti-graft rally in India

Global phenomenon: Massive protests sweep across India / The Extinction Protocol

August 17, 2011NEW DELHI -  An anti-corruption movement led by the feisty 74-year-old social activist Anna Hazare is snowballing into one of the biggest challenges in decades for the ruling Congress party and if not contained risks sparking India’s own version of an Arab Spring revolt. While no one is expecting an Egypt-like overthrow in the world’s biggest democracy, a galvanized and frustrated middle class and the mushrooming of social networking sites combined with an aggressive private media may be transforming India’s political landscape. Hazare has quickly become a 21st century Mahatma Gandhi inspiration for millions of Indians fed up with rampant corruption, red tape and inadequate services provided by the state despite the country posting near-double digit economic growth for almost a decade. “Democracy means no voice, however small, must go unheard. The anti-corruption sentiment is not a whisper-it’s a scream. Grave error to ignore it,” Anand Mahindra, one of India’s leading businessmen and managing director of conglomerate Mahindra Group, wrote on Twitter. Hazare’s arrest on Tuesday, only hours ahead of a planned fast until death against graft was the last straw and sparked spontaneous protest across the country of 1.2 billion people. The young and old, rich and poor, without apparent political affiliations, took to the streets in a rare voice of solidarity — a potential lethal cocktail for any party in power in India. Politicians are increasingly being judged on governance rather than old caste and regional ties – as has already happened in states like Bihar – and the new social shift will push national parties to be more responsive to voters’ needs. In a passionate speech in parliament, 58-year-old BJP leader Arun Jaitley said protests witnessed over the past 24 hours, reaching even the remotest villages, were something he had not seen in his lifetime and must be a “wake-up call” for politicians to put their house in order. Students, lawyers, teachers, and business executives have taken to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to spread the message and vent frustration against corruption. “These protests are part of a global phenomenon, thanks to technology and a more proactive media,” said N Bhaskara Rao, social researcher and chairman of independent think-tank Centre for Media Studies. Most people do not expect India to follow the example of North Africa and the Middle East. But one of five Indians go hungry and almost half the vast population is poor — causes for potential unrest. India has been governed for most of the time since Independence in 1947 by the same family dynasty. For decades Indians united under these leaders but this year has seen a seismic gap emerging between the old guard and a vibrant and younger population. “This has the ingredients of being India’s own non-violent Arab uprising,” said Savio Shetty, a stock market analyst in India’s financial hub Mumbai. –Times of India

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