I have said this before and saying it again: bandh serves no positive purpose- in whichever issue it may have been called. It is an idea of protest, whose days have long been over. It only inconveniences common people- on whose name it is called and observed. It disrupts normal life and destabilises people’s long drawn plans and programmes. It not only adversely impacts economy immediately, it also creates a long term adverse impact on service sectors like tourism. It encourages hooliganism and anarchy.
Yet, political parties (all of them) call and enforce bandh, in whichever avatar they may call it like hartal. Because it gives them brownie points. It gives them visibility. It gives them a notion of doing something worthwhile for the people. It provides their workers/cadres a weird enthusiasm and a sense of ‘doing something’. And also because it is increasing becoming easy to enforce one. You engage groups of hooligans to create a situation, where people will be scared to move out of their houses, vehicles to ply, shops to open. Stray acts of arson and vandalism can do that. However couple of bombs thrown- will ensure that.
It seems, gradually, even the State is abrogating its responsibility to maintain normalcy and rule of law during a bandh. Declaring a holiday as a response to the bandh called (which Odisha Governemnt did on 10 September) is an example. By doing this the State is playing into the hands of hooligans. Why should the citizens suffer just because the State is unable to control sundry groups of hooligans disrupting normal life?
Several High Courts including Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court have delivered verdict against bandh and hartal. Yet it continues. This shows the respect political parties- all of them- have for the judiciary.
The crucible of VIP culture
On the eve of the bandh called against oil price surge, groups of young men went on a motor-cycle procession- holding flags and chanting slogans. It is a macabre irony. These bikes run on water or what! And none of the young men were wearing helmets as mandated by law. This brings to the fore the question: are you free to break the law when you are calling a bandh and ensuring it is ‘observed’ by the public?
All political parties do the same, anyway. It is how our politics is conducted at the grassroots. And it has its fallout.
When you break law or allowed to do so- you become emboldened to break bigger law more frequently. You then think you are above the masses, above other people- and then above law of the land.
This is how the infamous Indian VIP culture grows and then gets perpetuated.
‘Freedom’- screamed the headlines as the Supreme Court gave its verdict on Art 377. That headline spread across the front page written in big and bold letters- make me wonder: what is freedom? What are its constructs? Is it a positive attribute? Or absence of a negative attribute? Does it give us a license to do anything or bring in more responsibilities? Does it bring us happiness or is it the illusion of happiness that it dangles before our eyes? Can freedom be gifted or it needs to be earned? Can freedom bring in more bondages or it opens more doors?
When you find ruffians extorting money from truck drivers on road, samaj jana, puja season has begun.
When you see more advertisement of apparels and dress materials, white goods and cosmetics than news on news channels or newspapers, samaj jana, puja season has begun.
When your find your wife is kind to you and is taking care of all your needs and fancies post haste- samaj jana, puja season has begun.
The author is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Central Odisha town Dhenkanal. He is presently editing a book on Gandhi as a Journalist and Editor along with Snehasis Sur. [email protected]