India’s youth bulge and its disillusionment with political leaders may have helped drive recent post-rape protests and an anticorruption movement. But it’s not clear the new activism will sustain itself.

By Vaishnavi Chandrashekar, Correspondent

Students shout slogans during a protest against a leader of the ruling Congress party, who was arrested on accusations he raped a woman in a village in the early hours of the morning, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, Jan. 3. Recent post-rape protests have renewed debate over the rise of a new urban middle-class activism in India.

Anupam Nath/AP

Mumbai, India

The large-scale protests triggered by the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi has renewed debate over the rise of a new urban middle-class activism in India.

The strength and longevity of those protests, sustained as they were over several weeks and undeterred by police water cannons and teargas, took many by surprise. Student activism has generally been on the decline since the early 1990s, when the economy was liberalized, and the Indian urban middle-class is notorious for its political apathy.

But the recent protests, coming on top of 2011’s massive anticorruption movement led by Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, has some commentators heralding a new social mobilization – one that is fueled by frustration with what is seen as an increasingly corrupt and out-of-touch political system, energized by a new generation of youth, and aided by both old and new media.

“A generation has come of age that has [previously] been linked to a class and an ethos that was supremely indifferent to anything but their own self-interest – consumption and making money,” says Aditya Nigam, a political scientist and senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. He points out that this generation grew up in the 1990s, a period of economic liberalization that saw rising prosperity but also increased corruption – there have been several high-profile scams in recent years – that was perpetrated with impunity.

 

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India to face national strike over death of rape victim

 

Women march during a rally organised by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit protesting for justice and security for women, in New Delhi Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The whole of India could be hit by a national strike tomorrow following outrage at the death of a 23-year-old woman who was raped by a group of men on a bus in Delhi last month.

Today, there were demonstrations across the capital with protesters calling for tougher laws on sex crime. There have been almost continuous protests since the attack happened almost three weeks ago.

ITV News’ correspondent Geraint Vincent reports from Delhi.

 

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