When the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began on Sept. 17, 2011, in New York City's Zuccotti Park, it was hard to imagine that the protest would spread across many cities in the U.S., let alone go global.
Here's a look at OWS in various South Asian countries.
OWS IN INDIA: 2011 was a year of anti-corruption and "people power" protests long before anyone had heard of Zuccoti Park. Therefore, the traction that OWS has received in India has been mixed.
Occupy Dalal Street was launched in October. Dalal Street of Mumbai is like the Wall Street of New York, but the "ODS" has failed to gain momentum. In October, Hindustan Times reported that ODS Facebook page had only 36 likes. As of today, the Facebook page has only 192 likes and it was last updated on Nov. 4. However, other, more individualized protests have arisen in other parts of the country.
The Times of India recently reported that the movement “already incubated a 'community-owns-resources' experiment at Hazaribagh in Bihar” (which is India's 12th largest state).
The Indian version of OWS is also against corporations. According to an article in India Times, the Indian version of OWS “has emboldened those Indians who oppose the World Bank-piloted economic models designed to satiate appetite of big corporations and re-colonizers."
Mining companies are a particular target. Banwari Lal Sharma, the leader of the Bihar protesters, said, "Our alternative model allows the local communities to partner in economic growth, which is otherwise appropriated by the corporates."
Protesters in India are learning lessons from what they consider American failures. Speaking against corporate takeover, Sharma said, "If retail chains like Walmart can benefit farmers, why 14 lakh farmers of America are surviving on heavy government subsidy?" ("Lakh" is a Hindi unit of measure for 100,000, so he's referring to 1.4 million US farmers).
On a larger level, the anti-corruption movement pioneered by Anna Hazare in India is being compared to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In September, CNN reported that the anti-corruption movement has gained momentum but it has a long way to go. However, Hazare did force the government to respond by going on a hunger strike.
According to CNN:
“The Indian Parliament passed a resolution last week supporting many of the protestors' demands. In turn, Anna Hazare, the 74-year-old leader of the movement, called off his 13-day hunger strike after the resolution acknowledged his central demands, including the creation of the post of the ombudsman known as the Jan Lokpal.”
OWS in Pakistan:
Pakistanis marched towards the World Bank offices in Islamabad and protested against capitalism. In October, Press TV reported that Pakistanis are against “privatization” and “neo-liberalization”:
“Our serious problem is the policies of new liberalists and capitalists, for example the privatization of the telecommunication company has been a total disaster, restructuring of railway company has been a disaster and the big dams we built with World Bank money has also been a disaster environmentally, socially and economically,” said a protester.
Dawn.com, a Pakistani media outlet published an article with a headline “Occupy Wall Street irrelevant to Pakistan.” The article makes an argument that since the stockholders of KSE, the financial hub of Pakistan, are not as wealthy as Wall Street or Dalal Street stockholders, there is no reason to have a movement against capitalism in Pakistan. The article also states that it is really hard to figure out who is wealthy in Pakistan: “No one in Pakistan can name, with absolute confidence, the richest tycoon.”
However, the general public in Pakistan seems to know what they are protesting against. A video by The Express Tribune shows students and professors from Karachi University protesting against economic inequality.
What is next for OWS in Pakistan? It is not going anywhere. It seems to be leaderless and more importantly the protesters do not really have a clear target, unlike their counterparts in the U.S. and India.
OWS in Bangladesh:
On Oct. 22, GlobalVoices reported that protesters in Dhaka joined the movement against the one percent and their political leaders.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof suggested on his blog that Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, could be compared to the late Libyan dictator, Col. Gaddafi. Zafar Sobhani, Dhaka-based editor and columnist responded to Kristof in his column in The Sunday Guardian that Hasina is not Gaddafi despite her “grandiosity and authoritarian inclinations.”
Yes, it is true that Hasina is a democratically elected public official and by no means is she a dictator. But, like everwhere else, it is also true that people in Bangladesh are fed up with the status quo.
The big picture:
What will happen to the South Asian Occupy Wall Street movement? It is really hard to say.
According to the World Bank, South Asia is “home to half of the world’s poor.” The economic liberalization in India and microfinance initiative in Bangladesh have helped many people rise out of poverty. However, economic inequality still persists. The global economic meltdown has only worsened the situation almost everywhere including countries in South Asia.
I would not be surprised if there are mass protests in various South Asian countries in the near future. The democratization of technology and rapidly decreasing cost of communication are also going to help a forward-looking mass that wants to protest. These protests might not carry the banner of Occupy Wall Street, but will certainly bring attention to income inequality.
What do you think? Post your comments below.