Updated: Jan 17
Kazakhstan, a country with the 11th largest oil reserves, a GDP five times that of India and 10% smaller than India with a mere population of 1.9 crores, has fallen prey to growing entropy. It all began on the 2nd of January with a surprise hike in fuel prices. The prices were doubled; they went from 60 tenges per litre to 120 tenges per litre. Protests ensued in large numbers and eventually spiralled into violence and vandalism. The situation has gotten horrific, with an emergency declared by the President within two days of the events. The cabinet and the prime minister resigned in a day, and a 'shoot without warning' order was issued to the military in three.
Although the fuel prices have come back to normal now; the protests, however, have not. The protest began in lieu of the price hike, so why haven't they ceased yet? Well, the price hike was merely the last straw in a pool of agony and complaints for the Kazakhstan citizens. In 1991 Kazakhstan withdrew itself from the Soviet Union and has been independent for 30 years since. Or has it? From 1991 to 2019, Kazakhstan had the same President, the SAME. In the elections of 1991, he won with 98% votes, and in the next elections of 2015, he won with 98% even though he had an actual opposition the second time. Nursultan Nazarbayev, this former President, is now regarded as the 'Father' of the nation. Another fun fact is that the country's CAPITAL city is named Nur-Sultan, how sweet. Their current President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was chosen by Nursultan. People saw Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as a glimmer of hope that might play against the usual tide. It would be an understatement to say that hope was shattered rather quickly.
The Kazakh people are fed up with the breeding inequality and corruption in the country. Kazakhstan has a GDP similar to China's, yet all citizens expect the elite are in shambles. This protest embodies all the pent-up anger and frustration of the citizens. Sadly, there have been 26 deaths, over 1000 injured and 3000 arrests. Things will get worse if the Government doesn't change its ways. People wanted change, they wanted a true democracy, but now they demand it.
Shal Ket! Shal Ket! Shal Ket! … Russia?
The protests were in full swing, slogans being yelled and destruction of property ensued when Russian troops appeared out in the sharp cold air of Kazakhstan. 2000 Russian troops have now been deployed to the country to 'help' the Government. Putin seems to be everywhere. Everywhere. In Belarus, in Ukraine and now in Kazakhstan. Why does Russia not support any change in the Kazakhstan government? Nursultan was a former communist leader of the USSR and close friends with Russia; he appointed Kassym-Jomart. If Kazakhstan were to become a genuinely democratic government, then there is a 90% chance that Kazakhstan would become a NATO member. Sounds familiar? Yes, this is Ukraine in the making again; Russia can't lose all its former countries to NATO. It needs to hold onto them and remain the invisible hand of authority over them. This is a game of power, and Russia wants to win. Win, however brutal the consequences are.
The Internet was cut off for a long time during the protests by the Government, something that makes all 'dictators' feel all mighty. The Internet being cut out is a big deal for the Kazakh people. Kazakhstan is huge on Cryptocurrency; most of its payments are digital, and most importantly, with Covid around, the internet is ever more valuable to them. Kassym-Jomart is playing all his cards, from cutting off the net to shooting people down. He was starting to look helpless before Russia entered. If the military action works, the protests might die down for a while. The Kazakh people have had enough and now they demand justice. The Kazakh citizens will be quiet no longer, as they protest in the bleak winters and take bullets to their heads; they yearn for justice and the warmth of equality.
There is hope. Hope that the Kazakh people and the Government will come to a mutuality of thought. Talks of peace have been initiated and the violence shall cease soon. The days of light and gaiety shall come illuminating the dark shadow of the past and its errors.
SHAL KET! – OLD MAN OUT!