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The protest in India is an enigma that needs to be deconstructed and needs an hour. Protests are considered to be an essential part of the majority of the countries which exists currently in liberal democracies. Any straightforward action which is taken for the peaceful implementation of any rule which is creating any sort of disharmony leads to the presentation of obliterating slavery, also extending out rights and privileges to nations’ women and minorities which helps in increasing opportunity of nations. In a country like India which truly follows the pillar of democracy with an adulteration to it that is corruption that leads to a change of fabric of reality which cannot be overlooked as this results in permission to fight throughout the nation as a consequence of rising corruption rate in every sector. The protests act crucially or say act as dissent that comprises of threats and to bear against it; powers of police, predominant vested parties, and military are brought in the scenario.

This article talks about the concern of protesters who started with the agitation of the movement and ended up with the appearance of malefaction. A regular event that occurs is that political parties intently affect and steer the viciousness between two gatherings and in a democratic country like India it’s a democratic right of people to protest in a peaceful manner which is incredibly inverse to rioting with violence. The common man of our nation with a noble cause in his mind tries to sort things out and considers all these as his mission but many missions get fail or are stifled due to the utilization of violence and impatience.

KEYWORDS: Democratic, Riots, Corruption, Violence, Protesters, Political Parties


We are well versed with the term protest but to explain it in layman’s terms, a protest expresses criticism, dissent, or objection to what someone has said and done. Legally, a protest is a way of signaling dissent, disapproval, or objection to any rule, regulation, statement, or policy made by the government. Therefore protesting is considered the most effective way to challenge government policies and laws. In a democratic country there should be proper checks and balances of the rules and regulations and to make this happen protest helps in interrogating government action or any public authority activity and have them deliberately offer a similar reply. As our Constitution also envisaged the idea of rights for the people of India and that included the right to protest. Given the rules and regulations, and legal frameworks, everything is done for the welfare of the citizens, therefore Indian Constitution grants several rights to citizens of India which are the Fundamental Rights, included in Part III of the Constitution of India, 1950. That being said if it seems to any citizen that any action, plans, policies, orders, or legislation is not a proper fit for the democratic pillar or is arbitrary, they have the potential right to oppose, criticize and indicate their perception to the respective government; however, the way it should express be of peaceful manner without creating disharmony and harm to other people who are not part of it, and therefore it can be said that Fundamental Rights owes a colossal role in the welfare of our citizens, hence, in any case, cannot be violated.

Even though the rights assured by the Constitution are very important, it should be kept in mind that it is Article 19 that grants several freedoms to the citizens. Article 19 is only the article that offers the right to protest to the citizens, however, the word protest is not mentioned anywhere in part III of the Constitution of India, but it can be derived from an in-depth analysis of Article 19 and cases related to it. Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(b) protect the right to protest and Article 19(1)(c) gives the citizens the right to freedom of expression ( often termed as freedom of speech and expression), the right to gather peacefully without weapons and the right to form associations or trade unions. Only if the protest is peaceful does the Constitution of India recognizes it as a fundamental right. Thus if it appears to citizens any act, law, order, or policy by the government that curtails their very own right then they can protest peacefully to reverse the government policies. However, the fact is very clear that the right to protest is a fundamental right but cannot be an absolute right. The question of the matter do we need any sort of permission for the protest, the answer is that we don’t need any kind of permission for protest, basically to march on streets or sidewalks, as long as marchers don’t obstruct any vehicle or cause any kind of nuisance to pedestrians they won’t need any permission for doing such things peacefully. However, certain events require permission by higher authorities for instance any parade or road show that requires blocking of traffic or street closure; an enormous assembly requiring the utilization of sound-enhancing gadgets; or a rally of a certain size mostly at parks or plazas.

Article 19 clause 2 of our Constitution says about reasonable restriction which provides power to the state to put restrictions on the following grounds; security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality, incitement of offense, and integrity and sovereignty of India. It should be kept in mind that all protests are legal if they don’t hold action which shows violence, if any protest is in disharmony with the above-mentioned grounds then it is considered illegal. The ideology behind all those restrictions is to save public property from getting dismantled and also to respect the rule of law.

Here Rule of Law refers to; the law being supreme and above every individual (no person is above the law). If citizens were given absolute independence without any check and balance then that could affect our society and will lead to chaos and mass destruction, for that reason fundamental rights are not absolute and come with reasonable restrictions. When citizens start to think of it as an absolute right they show the act of arbitrariness; the same act of arbitrariness happened in the recent protest of the farmers against the Government of India on the 26th of January 2021.

Right To Free Speech And Peaceful Assembly:- In-Depth Analysis

  • The Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression changes into the right to freely express the views/critics on the conduct/policies of the government whether central or
  • The Right to form Association is forming associations for political purposes, for example: To challenge the government decisions mutually, peacefully, and legally to take the whereabouts of the government, and to not solely check misuse of power but to seize
  • The Right to peacefully assemble helps and lets the political parties and citizenship bodies such as university-based student groups debrief and raise objections to acts of the public authority by demonstration, agitations, and public meetings to launch protest
  • Established democracies stand on two core political

Þ The very first is Article 326 of the Constitution of India which says about the right of every citizen to freely elect their government and when dissatisfied with its action and performance, to vote it out of power in a legitimately held election.

Þ As long as the public action to challenge the government’s proposals or decision is peacefully done it is constitutionally valid/legitimate, however, if the action turns sour and creates chaos, the government has the right which is arbitrary restraint by imposing section 144 of code of criminal procedure (CrPC), this shows the inability of the government to endure disagreement or dissent.


Turning the pages into Indian history, protests were an integral part of the old India as well as now in the modern era. It dates back to the use of peaceful protests as a tool for India’s struggle for independence. The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi ( MohandasKaramchand Gandhi) also believed in protest being with harmony and unchaotic, following the principle of Ahimsa, he executed various dharnas, protesting rallies and maneuvering against the Britisher’s colonial policies and their laws to guarantee citizens’ civil rights and eventually India’s freedom from Britisher’s rule.

Back in the 1970s, saw a slew of intensified protests against then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; the most strikingly the JP movement led by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, which eventually resulted in an emergency in the year 1975. Before the emergency, there was another movement called the Chipko movement in the year 1973 in the upper Alaknanda Valley which was a movement for the conservation of forests in India that also rang up the curtain on non-violent protests in India in 2011, remember the anti-corruption activist Sh. Anna Hazare began an indefinite hunger strike at JantarMantar in New Delhi for scrutinizing the draft Jan Lokpal Bill, in this way the bill was then passed in the LokSabha and RajyaSabha in 2013 after making certain amendments to the earlier bill and got assent from then President Pranab Mukherjee on 1st January 2014 and came into force on 16th January.

Protest varies in nature and such different shades of it can be seen in several fields like the film industry, for instance, in the movie named Padmaavat and its star cast DeepikaPadukone, the slew of protest was seen as the movie name before was Padmavati, which hurt people’s sentiment, especially for some of the Rajpoots’, it was against their culture, this led to change in name by the censor board and renamed as Padmaavat. Back in the year 2020, the ShaheenBagh incident against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and recently 2021 farm bill protest by the farmers. The verdict about the protest against CAA held by the Delhi High Court that says: demonstration and road blockades in the ShaheenBagh area should demonstrate only in the area designated by the administration and that their (protesters) dissent should not hinder the way of public’s right to free movement2


Ÿ  In the case of Railways Board (representing U.O.I) v. Niranjan Singh3:

A clampdown was observed that the restriction in this matter was that the right to protest/assembly doesn’t apply to the right to someone else’s private property. Article 19 puts on some reasonable restrictions and is imposed in the interest of India’s sovereignty and integrity; state security; friendly relations with foreign countries; public order and cannot be arbitrary. Therefore citizens should keep in mind their duties and perform them while exercising their rights.

Ÿ  In RamlilaMaidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & others (2012)4:

The Supreme Court had laid down that “citizens have fundamental right to assemble and peaceful protest; that cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action”. even in the year 2012 the dreadful Delhi gang rape (often known as the Nirbhaya case) ignited the spark within every soul in the society that resulted in colossal public outrage and they were abundantly clear in expressing that they have had enough.

Ÿ  In the case ofHimmatLal K Shah v. Commissioner Of Police5

Ahmedabad, the court held that they cannot seize people’s fundamental right to protest unless and until there’s any proper reason to do so. However, many states have introduced laws empowering police to restrict such meetings.


  • In 1810: House Tax Hartal (against the house tax extended by the government)
  • In 2006: Dalit protests in the state of Maharastra (because 4 Dalits were killed by a mob kunbis)
  • In 2006: Indian anti-reservation protests ( in opposition to the decision of the Government of India to implement reservations for the OBCs (other backward classes)
  • In 2011: the Indian anti-corruption movement (intended to establish strong legislation against prevailing political corruption during that time)
  • In 2011: Land acquisition protests in the state of Uttar Pradesh (against the proposed enforced land acquisition laws)
  • In 2016: an Indian general strike (against the plans for increasing privatization)
  • In 2016: Mathura clash (after clash between police and encroachers)
  • In 2016: a UNA flogging incident (against cow protection in Una, Gujrat)



In the year 2016, the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University performed a protest; the protest was over the execution of Afzal Guru in the year 2013, who was a Kashmiri separatist and was sentenced for conspiring in an attack on the Parliament of India that occurred 16 years ago. Many human rights activists felt that the execution of Afzal Guru was a flaw in the administration process; his secret hanging without even informing his family is a violation of human rights. A demonstration has seen clashes between different student groups on the college campus. After 4 days, then JNU students’ union President Kanhaiya Kumar was taken into custody by Delhi Police and booked for sedition. Umar Khalid and 2 other students were arrested later on the same ground.

JNU authorities took action against 21 students by conducting an inquiry about their involvement in the atrocity. The action was a mixture of fines and rustication which were imposed on students to its consequence, the students went on an indefinite strike against college authorities. The Delhi High Court granted a “conditional relief” and issued a stay on the disciplinary action and punishment imposed against those students. Once this order was passed they (students) call off the strike.


Often known as save silent valley was a social movement that targeted to protect the silent valley which is an evergreen sub-tropical forest in the Palakkad District of Kerala. Adding to this, it is also considered a battlefield of personal agendas, between then Prime Minister Sh. Morarji Desai and the Government of Kerala and environmentalists in the year 1973. a hydroelectric project at Silent Valley was passed by the planning committee in the year 1973 at the cost of Rs. 25 crores. It was a dam on the Kunthipuzha River, engulfing the whole biosphere reserve and destroying its 4,000,000-year rain-forests. A committee in the year 1973 was formed named MGK Menon Committee to review the hydroelectric project

but came up with a suggestion to scrap it. This protest/people’s movement incredibly worked and halted the hydroelectric project forever and saved a flawless evergreen forest in Kerala.


The most horrendous and brutal act by 6 men, who inhumanly gang raped a young girl on a bus. Just after 5 days after the incident, a colossal public protest emerged in the nation’s capital Delhi on 21st December 2012. a large number of people gathered at India Gate and Raisina Hill. Around one thousand (1000) protesters confronted police men and rapid action force units. Demonstrators were charged, shot with water canons and tear gas shells, and even taken into custody. Since the protest and the crime alerted the entire nation; officials took various measures to make Delhi safer than ever for women. That measure includes more police night patrols, checks on the bus driver and their staff/assistants, and the banning of the bus with tinted windows or curtains. 2 committees were set up, the first one was for speeding up trails of cases involving sexual assault on women and the second was to examine the lapses that might have led to the incident in Delhi. The protesters were not holding back and were asking the government that life sentences for these monsters were not enough and many called for the death penalty. Not so far enough, the petition of the accused was repudiated for removal of the death sentence, and afterward the accused were awarded the death sentence.


Indians have been using the protest as a tool to achieve justice before the dawn of independence, which makes protest a very significant part of our democracy, when we protest we protest for what is right, we protest against injustice. Recently our country witnessed a very surreal wave of protest by the farmers of our nations. The 2020-2021 Indian Farmer’s Protest is another such protest against the new farm acts passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. In 2017, the central government brought the Farming Act, which regulated farming. In June 2020 the center government proposed three ordinances to the act which deal with agricultural products, their sale, their marketing, and the changes in contract farming among other things. The act is still in question from September 2020.

These acts9areas are as follows:

  • Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act: This act expands the scope of trade areas of farmers’ produce from select areas to “any place of production, collection, and aggregation.” Allows the electronic trading and e-commerce of the product of farmers. Prevents the state governments from levying any market fee or levy or any sort of taxes on farmers, traders, and electronic
  • Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act: creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm It provides for a three-tier dispute settlement mechanism including the conciliation board, Sub- Divisional Magistrate, and an Appellate Authority for appeals.
  • Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act: allows for the center to regulate certain food items in the course of extraordinary situations like war or famine. It sets a requirement that the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce is based on price rise.

The farmer unions demand that they want the law be repealed without any compromises and stated that they will not tolerate otherwise. The Supreme Court of India put a stay order on the implementation of the law and appointed a committee to look into the disputed matters of the law. But the Union rejected the committee and also rejected the proposal of the government that the law should be suspended for 18 months and to reevaluate the situation after 18 months. A total number of eleven rounds of discussion have been taken place to come to common grounds between the central government and the farmer unions but the discussion not able to provide any common grounds between the government and the farmer unions. The “Anti-farmers law” was the term used by the farmer unions to describe the Farm Bill proposed by the government. The opposition stated that this Farm Bill would lead to the capitalization of the agricultural sector of our country and farmers will be left at the mercy of their corporate overlords. The Farmer Union was also demanding the to put a minimum Support Price, so there will also be a minimum amount below which no one can buy the agricultural products.


The Protests can often turn aggressive and can change from something peaceful and righteous to something violent and malevolent, when it loses its purpose and turns against the innocent that might have nothing to do with the protest it starts to vandalize public and private property just because it can’t hold its emotions in check. The peaceful and harmonious cause for justice turns into something dangerous for the innocent working man and for itself. This same situation happened in the Jatt protests in Haryana for not including the Jatt community in the OBC category and the same situation can be seen following the death of militant leader BurhanWani in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016. This leads to the implementation of safety and order by the actions of the security and sometimes armed forces.

When a protest turns into riots its whole meaning and goal change into something different which no one would have expected, but in this great nation where once protests were led by the greatest Mahatma Gandhi who led us to our independence peacefully, it is very not often we see a peaceful protest. And whenever things start to go south it becomes necessary for the Indian state to intervene and take the necessary steps to ensure that the damage should be minimized and stopped before it gets out of hand. India is a country of many religions, sects, languages, classes, castes, and divisions the authorities have to regularly deal with small-scale or large- scale protests that more appear as rights rather than protests. When the protest appears to be turned into riots the police have to take necessary steps like lathi charges, water cannons, and teargas to subdue civil disorder and events of the public. The police also sometimes get pressurized to use tactics and equipment that are defiantly extreme and harsh for the average citizen who is new to these protests.

In the farmer’s Protest, the protesting farmers to show their disagreement with the Farm bill decided to march towards the red fort on their tractors or carts peacefully on 26th January 2021 on the occasion of republic day in New Delhi. The necessary measures for security and safety were taken by the authorities. And a route was allotted to the protesters through which they could get on with their protest. But there was a group of farmers who wanted to take advantage of the situation to get their own notorious goals and used roads that were not allotted for the protests and turned the protest into riots not only that entered and hijacking the Red Fort for notorious purposes. This created great civil unrest and a huge clash between the police force who was trying their best to maintain order and the notorious rioters who were masquerading as farmers.

Riots masqueraded as protests

On June 18, 2022 tens of hundreds of protestors marched over railway stations and streets of Lakhisarai, Ara, Buxar, Bihta, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, and Purnia vandalizing public and private property. Their primary target was trains and to stop the lifeline of many people that use transport for their livelihood and to manage their lives. The main motive behind the dreaded actions of the hooligans was to damage railway property, loot the stalls, and whatever value that they can get their hands upon. Massive acts of vandalism and arson, railway tracks were torn apart many trains were burnt damaging an unprecedented amount of railway property the likes of which we hardly ever see. Janseva express was set ablaze, Sasaram passenger train was set on fire, and multiple bogies of SamparkKranti Express at Samastipur station were burnt down to the core. Due to this chaotic event, more than 50 trains were diverted to save trains and secure the safety of the passengers. For more than 3 days people were stuck at the railway station unsure when the trains will be running again, students had to reschedule or find other ways to travel to get to their classes and their entrance or competitive examinations.

Even Deputy CMs Renu Devi’s house was attacked by these so-called protesters, and vehicular movement was affected to a large extent, on highways, hundreds of students came on NH-139 and NH- 727 blocking the traffic and creating problems for the travelers. After this, the police forces chased away these so-called protesters making some arrests and some were just warned.

So you must be wondering why all this had to happen. Let me explain, all this happened because the Indian armed forces brought out a new scheme Agnipath for the recruitment of soldiers in the changing decade-old process of recruitment of soldiers in the army, navy, and air force. And this new scheme was approved by the union cabinet. These students who were supposed to be the potential candidates for the Indian armed forces ironically named Agniveer by the media were unhappy with this new Agnipath scheme and took it upon themselves to persuade the Indian armed forces to establish the old recruitment process by vandalizing and damaging the public and private property. They demanded to restore the previous recruitment process as the new system reduced the terms of services for 4 years, the age limitation was 17.5 to 21 years, and no pension for the soldiers decommissioned early. After the protest, the upper age limit was increased to 23 years. I am empathetic to these students who aspire to become soldiers and work for the armed forces and I also understand the concerns of job security that one keeps in mind after joining the armed forces. And not getting a pension after you give your life to work and protect the country feels unjustified, but was this the only way they could have their voices heard by the government and armed forces? Was vandalism and destruction of public and private property necessary? Cause after this one starts to ask the question are these the people who can protect the nation and its citizens? In my opinion, these were no protesters they were just some hooligans masquerading as protesters to instigate riots.

In a not-so-similar case, a spokesperson from the ruling party on a debate remarked on the Prophet Mohammad after coming into an argument with the opposition party and there was another member of the party who made a tweet that was allegedly offensive to the Prophet Mohammad. This caused a chain of protests and riots that would shake the whole nation to some extent. Maharashtra, Gujrat, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bengal all shook because of these so-called protests heavy deployment of police was needed to maintain the situation. All over the nation violent and hateful remarks were made by certain groups of people belonging to a particular religion to instigate communal violence. 14 districts of Maharashtra, Ahmedabad, and Vadodara needed police to stabilize the situation. And the protests turned violent in Jharkhand Ranchi, Bengal Howarh, and Uttar Pradesh Pryagraj. Police made 136 arrests for involvement in unlawful assembly and violence.

And all this makes you think that are these really protests or just plain riots to strike fear in the heart of people because if you have any disagreement or you have any problem with the situation the goal should be to resolve the disagreement or to solve the problem. I understand that many people’s sentiments were hurt but only violence can fix the sentiments of the people or hurting the innocent is the answer. All I can think is that these were not protest just riots.


The protests against the CAA-NRC began just after the bill was proposed by the government which was later passed by the parliament of India. This led huge masses of people to show up in the streets to express their disagreement with the law, this was most prominent in the Muslim- dominated regions as they thought they were being targeted by the government, this emerged as the case of some rumors among some people that they would have to let go of their citizenship which was most probably not the case. Delhi’s ShaheenBagh protest gained the most fame and people from all over Delhi came to support their so-called cause which was outlasted until the Covid-19 pandemic.

The protest turned into riots in some regions of the capital which reported mass cases of vandalism, arson, and civil unrest. There were some cases of parliamentary officials being attacked by the rioters with some unknown substance that resembled acid-like properties and caused mild to severe burns in the Karawal Nagar. Unlike some other protests, there were no signs of the conflict ending and rather the protests turned into full-fledged riots in parts of the capital. A journalist was shot dead while covering the conflict between the police and the rioters, a senior police officer was also shot, some constables were shot and many activists were also injured or shot.

The protest was supported by many A-listing start from the Indian Film Industry, well they were not part of the riots they just came in support of the cause or what they believed in, this A- list included names like the famous FarhanAkhtar, JavedAkthar, ShabanaAzmi, Parineeti Chopra, RichaChadda, Ali Faizal, SwaraBhaskar, etc.

Supreme Court’s Decision on Right to Protest 

The Supreme Court stated that the right to protest in public places is not absolute in Indian Law. Public spots can’t be occupied indefinitely for protests. Occupation of public roads “is not acceptable at all and the administration needs to take actions to keep the areas clear of encroachment or any sort of obstructions”. (In Amit Sahani v Commissioner of Police and others) (Civil Appeal NO. 3282 of 2020)

The three-judge bench including Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Aniruddha Bose, and Justice Krishna Murari made it loud and clear that the erstwhile way of dissent against the colonial rule cannot be equated with the dissent of a self-ruled democracy like India. Further, the three-judge Bench said while dissent and democracy go hand in hand, “demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in a designated place alone.” So while the Azad Maidan in Mumbai and the JantarMantar in Delhi act as the “marked” areas, India’s streets are bereft of the will of the people. More awful, de-democratized government capacities without being considered responsible for individuals’ organized voice.

The courts must now interpret the freedom to dissent and express in a manner that protects the interests of the general public as well as the protesters. A fundamental right cannot be demoted for organizational reasons or to suit a political narrative. Democracies can only prevail on the principles of ethics and public morality.


Well for the proper functioning of democracy we need protest to hear the voices of the unheard, the protests are the lifeline of democracy with the absence of any protest the voices of the unheard will never come to the surface, without any the protest the democratic system would become so rigid that it will not be able to rectify some of its mistakes. Successful protests are a sign that people’s voices are being heard. The right of an Indian citizen to protest without any arms of any kind is one of the greatest weapons we have against the injustice that emerges in our society from time to time.

Reasonable restrictions are essential to maintain a peaceful and safe protest because it doesn’t take much for people to abuse their rights. And it is the responsibility of the state to maintain harmony among the people and take necessary actions whenever there is a need, it is the duty of the state to ensure balance in the already delicate situation where protests can turn into something so chaotic that it goes out of hand and becomes a missed opportunity to show the capabilities of the government. There are some demands and some constructive criticism that should be welcomed by the government and in any case, the right to protest should not be suppressed. The protests could be a way for necessary change that the government needs to bring in the laws and administration.

And an honest citizen needs to understand every right comes with a responsibility that is not explicitly obvious, but the citizen has to find those responsibilities and understand fully understand those rights before professing the right that is granted to them by the constitution of our country. So, the right to protest is an essential part of a country and it should be used appropriately when required or necessary the government should also help citizens to use their fundamental rights, rather than limiting their scope.

Thus, it can be concluded that Protesting is not only a fundamental right granted by the Indian Constitution but is also a moral duty. So, it is a pretty much clear fact that the constitution safeguards the existence of the Right to protest which can be understood by an in-depth reading of Article 19. However, these rights are not absolute and should be subjected to reasonable restrictions as provided under Article 19(2) which is important in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of the country.

1 Students at Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology, GGSIPU Delhi Respectively.

2AmitSahniVs Commissioner Of Police, Civil Appeal, 3282 Of 2020

3 1969, AIR 966 SCR (3) 548

4 Writ Petition (CRL) no.122 of 2011

5 1973, AIR 87, 1973 SCR (2) 266

6 Protest In India available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Protests_in_India (Last Modified September 26, 2021)

7State vsShehla Rashid And Anr, 2016

8State vs. Mukesh And Anr, 2012

9 Indian Agriculture Act, 2020

10 Indian Union Muslim League vs. Union Of India