On December 17, 2010, a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, a desperate act of protest against the cruelty of police. The spark ignited by him spread like wildfire, ushering a season of discontent through the Arab world. After Tunisia—Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen and Libya became hotbeds of revolution. Dictatorial regimes were dismantled and the air was rife with the promise of democracy and elections.
India is not untouched by these unfolding events. An HT—CNN-IBN survey reveals that a majority of Indians—69.3%—believe that the anti-despot movement across Arabia will lead to more democracy in the region. Seventeen percent, however, are not so optimistic, given the chaos and the looming threat of Islamic fundamentalists grabbing power.
Indian citizens feel a sense of solidarity with their Arab counterparts. More than 41% of respondents feel that we should extend our support to protesters. However, 26% would rather support existing governments. 60% of respondents from Kolkata feel that we should refrain from taking any stand.Interestingly, the youth is more gung-ho about the Arab spring, with almost half the respondents between 25-35 years supporting the demonstrators while only 30.9% of those between 46-50 years express similar support.
With things far from settled, the outcome of these movements is uncertain. If the new governments that come to power turn out to be hostile to India, what then? While many Indians would continue to support the change, 37.5% would support it to a lesser extent. Sixty-four percent of the respondents in Kolkata would not support such a change at all, toeing the patriotic line.
The revolution made innovative use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The 'One million' marches in Tahrir Square mobilised support through these platforms. Almost 60% of respondents felt that media had played a positive role.