Learning through experiencing is the most effective medium and the country’s youth is doing just that by getting hands-on experience of violent activism by participating in sit-ins for socio-political reasons. The recent 21-day-long sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange witnessed young boys partaking in holding the capital hostage, and the fallout of the failed November 25th operation to disperse the protestors saw 15- to 16-year-old boys riding bikes and creating havoc across the country. An insane precedent of achieving victory through violence has been set for the youth who actively become party to all of this.
The dharnas (sit-ins) of 2014 have managed to set a trend where a group of people gather as a mob and block the capital or other cities. From only disrupting some roads to completely blocking entry points of major highways, to shutting down educational campuses or commercial markets resulting in paralysing the day-to-day life of the citizens. Moreover, these protests often endorse hate speech and threatening language. By ignoring the system and challenging the writ of the state, they succeed in denting peace and governance.
Adding fuel to the fire is the role of media. It is either completely blocked by Pemra or creates an alarming hype by passing judgments rather than being informative. And the real victims of all this hooliganism are we the people — the actual victims of this polarisation that is directly affecting our youth. We must not forget that those who indulge in destructing, clubbing, holding tear-gas shells or any other violent tools are the youth of this country. Who is responsible for the damage done to those who are attacked and the young impressionable minds of our youngsters? Shouldn’t there be a legislation to hold the leaders of the protesting group responsible for damaging personal or public property and exploiting the youth?
It isn’t the 30s or 60s when protests were led through show of street power, and created chaos on the vested whims of hidden (f)actors. We are now living in an era of advancement where mediums of protest have changed. Peaceful protests also manage to create a meaningful impact and in the meantime help maintain civic sense. Instead of indulging in violent sit-ins, we should encourage our youth to use modern tools of protesting, such as the signature or social media campaigns; open discussion on relevant platforms like Parliament for political issues, or dialogues with the government or relevant political parties for municipal issues or the civil society for human rights; effective use of media forums; or building pressure by marching or protesting on designated spaces.
We need to realise that the social learning and outcome of this existing exercise is fierce. We are responsible for inculcating violent activism leading to damage as remedy for asking the state to fulfill our demands. What will happen if this hooliganism becomes the norm? How will we be dealing with it? It is true that youth participation in social, political and religious fractions of the country is important. But if attacking and countering through violence is the widely practised expression, what are we leading ‘our future’ towards?
If we don’t mobilise our youth towards peaceful activism and make them respect the rule of law now we are intentionally pushing them towards destruction. If we don’t act now, we may not be able to sustain the level of devastation that may occur in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2017.