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4-min read

From Rose to Hugs, Protestors Show How Dissent Can be Shown Through Love and Empathy

While the protests are often equated to violence; love, empathy, and compassion have been used as a tool in conflicts.


Updated:December 22, 2019, 10:31 AM IST
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From Rose to Hugs, Protestors Show How Dissent Can be Shown Through Love and Empathy
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"My dad thinks I'm studying history. He doesn't know I'm busy making one," read the placard of a young woman protester, who offered a red rose to security personnel deployed in New Delhi to combat the ongoing protests in the capital over the amended Citizenship Act.

This took place days after Jamia Millia Islamia University turned into a battlefield, as police entered the campus and also used force, following protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which led to violence and arson.

"Our colleagues have been beaten up badly. The policemen entered bathrooms, libraries and beat up girls. Our protest is against the goons called Delhi Police," said a research scholar who did not want to be identified.

Following this, the protest snowballed into a pan-India movement as thousands of students, activists, and opposition leaders thronged the streets of New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Hyderabad among other cities and defied heavy security clampdown. Section 144 was put in place in several parts of India and the national capital faced internet shutdown.

Amidst all this, a powerful photo emerged from the Jantar Mantar protests - one that reminded everyone that the fight of anti-CAA protestors wasn't against the police force but the CAA itself. Perhaps that's exactly why the sea of people gathered in the national capital resorted to Gandhigiri or non-violence by offering roses to security personnel at the Jantar Mantar on Thursday, saying police could baton charge them as much as they wanted to but their message was "love in return for hatred".

Protester giving red rose to Delhi Police at Jantar Mantar from r/india

Similar scenes took place at Janpath which saw protesters against CAA come face-to-face with Delhi Police, who had direct orders to detain anyone. In the video, the protesters can be heard singing 'Hum honge kamiyaab,' (We shall overcome) and then, the national anthem.

At the sound of the national anthem, both the police and the protesters stood at the same place, unified for a moment. Watch the video below.

This, however, isn't the first instance that love in the time of protests the world has witnessed. In fact, love, empathy, and compassion have, on several occasions, been a part of protests. That "we are on the same side" has been a common sentiment shared by protestors to security forces and vice versa to diffuse the tense situations in the past.

Denmark Face Veil Ban Hug

Last year, Denmark's parliament rolled out a ban on the wearing of face veils in public, leaving hundreds upset. As a result, several women wearing the niqab veil or the body-length burqa began a march from the Danish capital's central district of Norrebro to Bellahoj police station to protest on the outskirts of the city. Many photos emerged from the protest but one stuck out for all the good reasons. Clicked by Reuters photographer Andrew Kelly, the powerful photo showed a Danish policewoman consoling a burqa-clad woman protesting against the ban.


Flower Power

Dubbed as the "flower power", the iconic photograph was snapped by American photographer Bernie Boston on October 21, 1967, during the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam's "March on the Pentagon". It was also nominated for Pulitzer Prize.

Free Hugs to Cops

On a volatile night of protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the fatal shooting of "unarmed" Keith Lamont Scott by police in 2016, activist Ken Nwadike took to streets to give free hugs to law-enforcement officers, urging the agitated public to stay "neutral".

"It's about staying neutral, that's what's important. "I see them as human beings, just like I see everybody on this side as human beings. We're all human. His uniform doesn't make him a robot. Just like your uniform, your skin colour, doesn't make you a criminal," Nwadike said in a video uploaded on his Free Hugs Project on YouTube.

His compassionate gesture was appreciated by the officers, one of whom said, "Thank you for being out here and being peaceful."

Protestor Hugs Weeping Soldiers

The enraged people of Lebanon came out on the streets earlier in October 2019 to protest against the government’s plans to raise the value-added tax. The protests, which were largely peaceful, saw a humbling moment when a soldier, decked in combat attire, was overwhelmed by the crowd's energy when they chanted their country's national anthem.

The crowd embraced the weeping soldier and patted his cheek and soldier.

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