Protest manual

Print edition : July 29, 2011

These books by Gene Sharp will provide good guidance not only to Kashmiris but also to Maoists and the armed militants in north-eastern India.

Dunya men Qateel usse munafiq nahi koi Dunya/ Jo Zulm to sehta hai baghawat nahi karta

(There is no greater hypocrite than he in the world Qateel/Who suffers oppression but does not rebel)

Qateel Shafai

ALONE in the Union of India, the State of Jammu and Kashmir systematically denies to the citizen the fundamental right to assemble peaceably and without arms (Article 19 (1) (b) of the Constitution). Also violated are Articles 21 and 25 of the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified and for whose observance it has, periodically, to file reports and defend them before the Human Rights Committee set up under the Covenant. Article 21 declares that the right to peaceful assembly shall be recognised while Article 25 guarantees the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.

Has any civil liberties body kept count of the number of days for which Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Maulana Umer Farooq, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah, to name a few, have been kept either in prison or under house arrest ever since Omar Abdullah became Chief Minister two years ago? Rallies are prevented. Undeclared curfews are the order of the day. On May 21, the Eidgah rally of the Hurriyat (Moderate) was aborted by an undeclared curfew and the leaders put under house arrest. The rally was to commemorate the assassination of Mirwaiz Maulana Mohammed Farooq on May 21, 1990.

The situation in the valley could not have been better. On May 23, the COC 15 Corps, Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain told Greater Kashmir: There was no incident of infiltration and neither was there any gunfight on Line of Control. These reports are concocted and baseless. This kind of baseless stuff appears in the media in May and June every year.

On May 24, Omar Abdullah expressed his discomfiture by saying that 40 militants had crossed over this year. Peace foils his repressive policies, which are worse than Farooq Abdullah's in some respects. He received his just deserts the very next day with a sharp rebuttal from Army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar: Our stand on the issue of infiltration is clear. Two days, back our Corps Commander Lt. General Syed Atta Hasnain has made a statement on infiltration. We stand by our Commander's comments on the issue.

Like Farooq Abdullah, Omar owes his job to New Delhi's favour, not to the popular will. The eight Assembly seats from Srinagar, where the lowest polling was recorded, were won by the National Conference Party machine aided by the security agencies. As Winston Churchill said on June 2, 1931: No government which is in a large minority in the country, even though it possesses a working majority in the House of Commons, can have the necessary power to cope with real problems. This unrepresentative government could not have dared to behave as it has were it not for the support of some in government and the Congress in New Delhi. Their support is not conceived in the national interest but in the interest of the Congress party.

Contrast this with the utterances of, say, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. His five-point formula for peace last year was deliberately ignored. Undeterred, he said on April 22: Our struggle, particularly after 2008, will be peaceful. There will be no use of gun, grenade, tear gas or any other weapon in it ( The Telegraph, April 23). On April 29, he asked the youth to refrain from pelting stones: It is turning out to be a huge loss for my people, like in 2010. More, he asked them not to shout provocative slogans like Indian dogs go back'. While critical of the Army's role, he said: They are our brothers on a humanitarian basis. Calling them dogs doesn't suit us at all it is against our religion and morals ( Rising Kashmir; April 30). On June 3, he declared: I want to make it clear that tourists arriving in Kashmir are our guests. He asked the tradesmen not to cheat them ( Greater Kashmir; June 4, 2011). All this from a man New Delhi and very many in the media love to hate. As for the police and the State government's behaviour, note that there are still 124 young alleged stone pelters in prison according to Director General of Police Kuldeep Kheda ( Greater Kashmir; June 16) Have they been tried and convicted at all?

The secession bogey will fool nobody. Article 253 is applied to Kashmir with this very meaningful proviso: Provided that after the Commencement of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954, no decision affecting the disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be made by the Government of India without the consent of the government of that State. This implies that that government is elected by a free election, not a rigged one. But are the people of Kashmir, who are directly affected, to have no say on the decision affecting the disposition of their State? Debate cannot be confined to election time. It has to be kept open. Evidently the decision on Kashmir's disposition is yet to be made. Hence the proviso. The citizen is surely free to express his opinion on any of the options in that disposition.

There is a very apt precedent in the report by Van der Goes Van Naters of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, entitled The Future Position of the Saar (1954). The territory was in bitter dispute between France, the occupying power, and Germany. It opted for Germany eventually by a referendum. Meanwhile, the report discussed in detail various aspects of the problem. Is the immutability of the Constitution compatible with the political freedom of the citizens? Commenting on this question, the report noted that the future of the Saar was yet to be decided and concluded. The provisions defining public liberty in the Saar should be interpreted in such a manner as to allow due expression of the opinion that the present provisional Constitution should later be replaced by a definitive Constitution based on other principles (page 190).

However, Kashmiri leaders have not helped their cause by hartals, bandhs and shutdowns which only inflict hardship on the common man. While the State believes that suppression of free speech will achieve normalcy, some of the leaders fear that absence of hartals will have the same result. That testifies only to their disconnect from the depths of popular alienation. Why not unite for a programme of peaceful protest and demand the right to express it thus?

These inexpensively priced but profound books by Gene Sharp will provide good guidance not only to Kashmiris but also to Maoists and armed militants in north-eastern India. Sheryl Gay Stolberg's report from Boston in The New York Times of February 17 was an eye-opener: Halfway around the world from Tahrir Square in Cairo, an ageing American intellectual shuffles about his cluttered brick row house in a working-class neighbourhood here. His name is Gene Sharp. Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, he grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man. But for the world's despots, his ideas can be fatal. Few Americans have heard of Mr Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on non-violent revolution most notably F rom Dictatorship to Democracy, a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Myanmar, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.

When Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around crazy ideas' about bringing down the government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Mr Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced. When the nonpartisan International Centre on Non-violent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr Sharp's 198 Methods of Non-violent Act', a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to protest disrobing' to disclosing identities of secret agents'. Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop and later organised similar sessions on her own, said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr Sharp's work into Arabic, and that this message of attacking weaknesses of dictators' stuck with them.

Guide to non-violent battles

The mission of the Albert Einstein Institution is to advance the worldwide study and strategic use of non-violent action in conflict. The use of brains to chalk out a strategy is as important in non-violent campaigns as it is in battles of arms.

Gene Sharp writes: I have tried to think carefully about the most effective ways in which dictatorship could be successfully disintegrated with the least possible cost in suffering and lives. In this I have drawn on my studies over many years of dictatorships, resistance movements, revolutions, political thought, governmental systems, and especially realistic non-violent struggle. This publication is the result. I am certain it is far from perfect. But, perhaps, it offers some guidelines to assist thought and planning to produce movements of liberation that are more powerful and effective than might otherwise be the case.

Of necessity, and of deliberate choice, the focus of this essay is on the generic problem of how to destroy a dictatorship and to prevent the rise of a new one.

From Dictatorship to Democracy was written at the request of the late U Tin Maung Win, a prominent Myanmarese democrat in exile who was then editor of Khit Pyaing (The New Era Journal). The preparation of this text was based on 40 years of research and writing on non-violent struggle, dictatorships, totalitarian systems, resistance movements, political theory, sociological analysis, and other fields. It was used by Serbian activists and was translated into Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi, French, German, Nepali, Kurdish, Pashto, Russian and very many other languages. Non-violent campaigns have succeeded in many parts of the world.

Violence is sterile and destructive. Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the democrats are (almost always) no match.

When conventional military rebellion is recognised as unrealistic, some dissidents then favour guerilla warfare. However, guerilla warfare rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in a democracy. Guerilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among one's own people. The technique is no guarantor against failure.

The oppressed must be armed with determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills. Two facts must be remembered. First, in negotiations it is not the relative justice of the conflicting views and objectives that determines the content of a negotiated agreement. The result is largely determined by the power capacity of each side.Several difficult questions must be considered. What can each side do at a later date to gain its objectives if the other side fails to come to an agreement at the negotiating table? What can each side do after an agreement is reached if the other side breaks its word and uses its available forces to seize its objectives despite the agreement?

A settlement is not reached in negotiations through an assessment of the rights and wrongs of the issues at stake. While those may be much discussed, the real results in negotiations come from an assessment of the absolute and relative power situations of the contending groups. What can the democrats do to ensure that their minimum claims cannot be denied?

This reflects the author's cool, unemotional reasoning.

The sources of political power include authority, human and material resources, skills and knowledge, sanctions and psychological factors that induce obedience and compliance.

The political scientist Karl W. Deutsch said: Totalitarian power is strong only if it does not have to be used too often. If totalitarian power must be used at all times against the entire population, it is unlikely to remain powerful for long. Since totalitarian regimes require more power for dealing with their subjects than do other types of government, such regimes stand in greater need of widespread and dependable compliance habits among their people; more than that they have to be able to count on the active support of at least significant parts of the population in case of need.

Machiavelli had much earlier argued that the prince who has the public as a whole for his enemy can never make himself secure; and the greater his cruelty, the weaker does his regime become.

Characteristics of defiance

As far back as 494 B.C. in Rome, plebeians withdrew cooperation from their patrician masters. The author lists precisely 17 weaknesses of dictatorship (pages 26-27).

Political defiance has the following characteristics : It does not accept that the outcome will be decided by the means of fighting chosen by the dictatorship; it is difficult for the regime to combat; it can uniquely aggravate weaknesses of the dictatorship and can sever its sources of power; it can in action be widely dispersed but can also be concentrated on a specific objective; it leads to errors of judgment and action by the dictators; it can effectively utilise the population as a whole and the society's groups and institutions in the struggle to end the brutal domination of the few; it helps to spread the distribution of effective power in the society, making the establishment and maintenance of a democratic society more possible.

Gene Sharp notes astutely the causes of failure: The common error of past improvised political defiance campaigns is the reliance on only one or two methods, such as strikes and mass demonstrations. In fact, a multitude of methods exist that allow resistance strategies to concentrate and disperse resistance as required.

About 200 specific methods of non-violent action have been identified, and there are certainly scores more. These methods are classified under three broad categories: protest and persuasion, non-cooperation, and intervention. Methods of non-violent protest and persuasion are largely symbolic demonstrations, including parades, marches, and vigils (54 methods). Non-cooperation is divided into three subcategories: (a) social non-cooperation (16 methods), (b) economic non-cooperation, including boycotts (26 methods) and strikes (23 methods), and (c) political non-cooperation (38 methods). Non-violent intervention, by psychological, physical, social, economic, or political means, such as fast, non-violent occupation, and parallel government (41 methods), is the final group. A list of 198 of these methods is included as the Appendix to this publication.

The use of a considerable number of these methods carefully chosen, applied persistently and on a large scale, wielded in the context of a wise strategy and appropriate tactics, by trained civilians is likely to cause any illegitimate regime severe problems.

This slim book is a manual of peaceful protest; a guide to political jitsu a weaker party bringing the stronger to heel. The strong use strong-arm tactics against the unarmed weak and stand exposed. It creates dissensions within their own ranks, lowers their morale, strengthens popular support and galvanises international public opinion.

The author instructs the reader on the perils of secrecy and on how to grapple with spies and the intelligence agencies. The main object of the movement must be to arouse mass awareness and mobilise the masses by educating them.

The people's movement in Egypt succeeded because the army refused to shoot at its own people. Leaders of the movement must, therefore, be transparently sincere and open in their work.

The other four volumes make heavy reading, as the author himself admits. The Politics of Nonviolent Action is discussed under three heads power and struggle; the dynamics of such action; and its methods. The author has been rightly called the Clausewitz of non-violent warfare.

Thomas Schelling, a distinguished authority on strategy in the nuclear age, has written a very instructive introduction to the three volumes. He writes: This book does shed some light on the theory of violent action. The more coercive non-violent techniques, in particular, have something in common with the techniques based on violence. (They even entail a latent threat of violence, although often it is the people non-violently' posing the threat who would be the victims if violence broke out).

Discipline, command and control; intelligence about the adversary; careful choice of weapons, targets, terrain and time of day; and especially, avoiding impetuous recourse to provoked or purposeless violence, are critical to success in violent as in non-violent action. One of the main differences is that violent action often requires hot blood, while the non-violent depends more on cool heads. That is why the violent is so much easier to engage in, but perhaps harder to engage in with a clear and sustained consciousness of purpose. The violent tends to make demands on morale that are incompatible with dispassionate calculation or continual assessment of goals. The victims of violence get to be seen as enemies or criminals. The scoring system is corrupted; and accomplishment comes to be measured negatively, by how much an enemy has been frustrated and hurt, not by how effectively someone has been influenced into accommodating, participating, or whatever it was that the violence was supposed to make him do

What Gene Sharp's book does at every step is to relate the methods of non-violent action and the organisational requirements, the logistics and the leadership and the discipline, the recruitment of members and the choice of targets, to political purpose. Non-violence as a source of sheer personal gratification gets little attention, just as inflicting pain for its own sake, as sheer retribution, should get little attention in that other book on the politics of violence action.

Gene Sharp quotes profusely from Gandhi's writings and repeatedly cites his decisions and policies. The last volume, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20 {+t} {+h} Century Practice and 21 {+s} {+t} Century Potential is particularly replete with references to Gandhi. One great merit of this volume is that it brings the narrative up to date in its discussion of non-violent struggles in a host of countries. It collects essays by writers of note, besides Gene Sharp's own analyses of techniques and methods of non-violent action. All in all, these are works of seminal importance, revolutionary in their sound message of the people's peaceful struggle for justice.

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