Protest, debate, disagreement, dissent etc., are words and concepts of the same family. Debate may start or end up in disagreement; disagreement may escalate into dissent; dissent may lead to protest. It cannot be denied that right to protest, to dissent, to interrogate is not merely a right acknowledged in many ways in the Constitution of India, but also deeply marks the Indian traditions of social conduct, creative expression, philosophical and metaphysical explorations and spiritual endeavours. To cite one example, it may be recalled that in Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, an epic which enjoys in North India the status of a scripture, Rama, soon after being coronated as the king of Ayodhya, beseeches the citizens to intercede without any fear if they ever feel he is acting unethically. It is ironical that the same Ayodhya today has been converted into a ‘spiritual’ polis of fear from which civic protest and dissidence have been sought to be permanently banished.
We can easily go back to the Vedic corpus and find that in the Nasadeeya Sukta (the Hymn of Creation) the sage strikes a note of scepticism: