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Dissent: Rival  of Government

This paper aims to talk about the act of challenging the prevailing ideas, myths, etc. which is necessary to discuss  in modern days.

What is dissent?


Oxford defines it as arguments and disagreement, especially , in a political party, etc. Dissent refers to the act of disagreeing or challenging the prevailing ideas, beliefs, or decisions of a group or society. It is the expression of a minority opinion or a different point of view, and it is an essential component of a healthy and functioning democracy. Dissent allows new ideas and perspectives to be heard and considered, and it helps to prevent the dominance of a single group or ideology. Many democratic constitutions and international human rights treaties protect the right to dissent. However, in some cases, conflict can be met with resistance or repression, particularly if it threatens those in power or challenges established norms and values. Despite this, clash remains an essential means of promoting progress and change, and it should be respected and protected in any society that values freedom of expression and democracy.


Dissent is a right and a responsibility, particularly for those who believe that the status quo is unjust or that current policies are misguided. Dissent can take many forms, such as peaceful protests, petitions, public speeches, and written statements, among others. When individuals engage in dissenting behavior, they are sending a message to those in power and to society at large that they believe that change is necessary. This helps to create a public discourse and fosters debate, which in turn can lead to reforms and positive change.


“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”

Czesław Miłos

Conflict can, however, result from dissent, primarily when it contradicts sincerely held ideas or ideals. Dissenters must maintain a courteous and non-violent demeanor since aggressiveness and violence can injure innocent people and discredit their cause. Furthermore, individuals in positions of authority must listen to opposing viewpoints and engage in debate rather than repressing or censoring them. A more inclusive and democratic society may result from this.

Dissent may be a powerful tool for exposing and opposing injustices, including discrimination, violations of human rights, and corruption. In addition to, dissenters often bring attention to issues that are overlooked or ignored by those in power, and they help to shed light on the realities faced by marginalized and oppressed communities. Their actions can help to catalyze social and political movements, leading to lasting change. 

Moreover, the dissent also helps to create a more diverse and vibrant public sphere where different perspectives and voices are valued and heard. A society that values and respects dissent is more likely to foster creativity, innovation, and intellectual diversity, which are essential for progress and growth. 

However, the opposition can be greeted with retaliation, especially if it threatens the interests of those in authority. Dissenters may experience persecution, incarceration, or even death in some nations. Governments may use censorship, monitoring, and other types of repression to stifle dissident voices since the freedom to disagree is not always honored.

Recent judgments by Additional Sessions Judge and Special Judge the court on Sharhjeel Imam and other activists in India's capital Delhi stated, ".. this court cannot but conclude that the police were unable to apprehend the actual perpetrators behind the commission of the offense, but surely managed to rope in the person's herein as scapegoats." 


It is important to note that while dissent is a right, it is also subject to reasonable limits. For example, dissenters cannot engage in hate speech, incitement to violence, or other forms of expression that harm others. The right to dissent must be balanced with the rights and freedoms of others, and it must be exercised responsibly and respectfully.

Some of the world-famous dissent :

1. Political conflict should be protected speech — Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Abrams v. United States (1919)

By disseminating leaflets urging workers to strike and rebel if the United States militarily interfered in Russia's revolution, some Russian immigrants were accused of breaking the Sedition Act of 1918, a federal law intended to stifle political dissent.

Most of the court confirmed the immigrants' 20-year prison terms, stating that the pamphleteers' obvious goal was to sow discord with the government and induce paralysis through strikes. Louis Brandeis and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes dissented in what has come to be known as "the Great Dissent."

Holmes observed, "Where private rights are not at issue, only the present danger of immediate ill or a desire to bring it about justify Congress in putting a limit to the expression of opinion."

He also said that even harmful or unpopular ideas should be entered into the marketplace of ideas because “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

In his book “The Great Dissent,” author Thomas Healy says this dissenting opinion “changed the history of free speech in America.” It established that even political dissenters on the fringe have a right to freedom of speech


2. Students shouldn’t be forced to say the pledge — Justice Harlan Fiske Stone in Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940)

A Pennsylvania legislation requiring public school pupils to stand, salute the flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Disobedient students were kicked out. Lillian and Billy Gobitis, who were Jehovah's Witnesses and believed that saluting the flag amounted to worshipping a graven image, refused to comply.

The majority of the court found in favor of the school district because political power must take precedence over religious freedom. Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, the voice of dissent, expressed concern that "the state seeks to coerce these children to express a sentiment which, as they interpret it, they do not entertain, and which violates their deepest religious convictions." He warned that this was against their "deepest religious convictions."

A wave of violence against Jehovah's Witnesses regrettably broke out as a result of the Gobitis ruling branding them as traitors. Only three years after Gobitis, in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a similar flag salute regulation.

In Barnette, the court decided that public school administrators may not compel students to salute the flag to silence them. It was a moving ode to the notion that the court can correct its wrongs.


In conclusion, dissent is a vital component of a healthy and functioning democracy. It allows for new ideas and perspectives to be heard and considered, and it helps to prevent the dominance of a single group or ideology. By exercising the right to dissent, individuals can promote change and contribute to a more just and equitable society. But there are chances that he or she will be put behind bars, like Indian activists Umar Khalid, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Other suspects include Sharjeel Imam, Shagoora Zargar, Siddique Kappan, and many others. Despite the government's tyranny to suppress the dissenters, the youth of today needs to stay strong.



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Tags: #government #opinion #dissent #youthvoice #terrorlaw

1 comment

1 year ago by Sahnu

Indeed democracy requires the meaningful participation of youth.

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