On Hunger Strikes

In any conflict of interests, opponents try to gain ground from where they can argue to win. In violent protests, the physically stronger team wins. For the weak to have a chance to win, silent protests are the way.

Let us consider 3 cases:

  1. You protest against government by violent protests, stone throwing, hartals, bhands.
  2. You protest against government in peaceful ways like “hunger strike” and no one knows about this.
  3. You protest against government in peaceful ways and everyone knows about it.

In case 1, you need physical strength to win the contest. It is nothing but survival of the fittest. If you can cause significant damage to public property, the government might be intimidated by you and heed to your demands.

In case 2, you will lose the contest if the government does not love you. Kids often go on “Hunger strike” to demand something from their parents. In this case, the parents love the children and hence will heed to the kids’ demand. If the parents were mean and didn’t like kids, the hunger strike would have been a failure.

In case 3, even if the government does not love you, it is afraid of what others will think about it. An analogy will be a kid crying and going on a hunger strike in a family reunion. Even mean parents will not want to lose their face among relatives and heed to the demand.

So, public support is a must for peaceful protests to succeed. Is there any reason for the British to care if Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ate food or not? No reason whatsoever. Except the fact that there were other people watching Gandhi go on a hunger strike and monitoring the situation. If Gandhi were to die of hunger, then British lose their high ground. People could adopt an emotional blackmailing angle which the British might have found difficult to contain. Hence they got scared of Gandhi and heeded.

Let us consider another situation. Suppose Vijay Mallya went on a hunger strike to protest against the alcohol consumption law of Maharashtra government, will he succeed? He would not be able to gather public support for his cause. Similarly, if Andimuthu Raja went on a hunger strike to demand legalising corruption, will he succeed?

The conclusion is that hunger strikes are successful just because it is a mass thing.


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