Students in literate states lead spike in protests

States with higher literacy levels report more protests, and nearly half of these protests were led by political parties, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of police data over six years.

The sharpest rise in unrest came from student-led agitations (148 per cent) between 2009 and 2014, show the data, gleaned from the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPRD), a national police agency.

Karnataka reported the most student protests (12 per cent), despite a statewide ban on student unions in colleges. A high literacy rate and a concentration of educational institutions in the state could be the reason, said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator, Access to Justice Programme with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an advocacy.

Up to 75.6 per cent of Karnataka is literate (national average: 74 per cent) and the state’s capital, Bengaluru, has more colleges (911) than any Indian city.

Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra together account for more than 50 per cent of all protests recorded between 2009 and 2014. Except Madhya Pradesh, all other states have literacy rates higher than the national average. 

Between 2009 and 2014, 420,000 protests were held across India — an average of 200 protests a day nationwide, and a 55 per cent rise over five years.

Unrest grew across the country for varied reasons — communal (92 per cent), government employee grievances (71 per cent), political (42 per cent) and labour (38 per cent).

Agitations are the collective expression of dissatisfaction with government authorities, and social, political and economic establishments. They could relate to an array of issues — from education, essential services and transport facilities to wages, Dalit issues and rights of women.

A protest gets recorded by the police either when prior permission is sought for holding it or when officials take suo-moto cognisance, based on information they gather.

Tamil Nadu has a history of high-profile agitations: From anti-Hindi agitations in the pre-Independence era to public expression of solidarity with the Tamils in Sri Lanka and marches against the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Delhi, the country’s capital, was seventh in terms of number of protests — it reported nearly 23,000 in the period under study.

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