Bandhs and Democratic Protest

Yesterday, of course, was a nationwide day of protest against a fuel price hike that has been implemented by the central government. The bandh was called by almost every single party that isn’t the Congress, and is being hailed as a huge success. I wonder about that, though.

Bandhs, hartals, stop-works and strikes are fundamental to a democracy. How else do a people protest something they don’t agree with, but aren’t powerful enough to stop? Yesterday’s bandh, for example was supposed to be by the aam-aadmi, for the aam-aadmi, against high prices. Well, technically, it was against the government cutting subsidies it has been doling out like candy on petroleum products, but the end result of an increase in petroleum prices is an increase in price for everything that is in any way transported, so it’s pretty much the same thing.

There are arguments to both sides of the debate, and, based on one’s political bent, one may be wont to accept one side and reject the other, or accept a combination. I would have no problem with any of this. What I do have a problem with, however, is when political parties that are supposed to be running the states in this country start calling for bandhs and then start ‘enforcing’ these bandhs, using their assortment of thugs to beat up people who might venture out.

What sort of protest is it if people have to be forced to be part of it, or else… How can the people behind these protests call them successful when what seems to have happened is that most people stayed indoors not because they supported the bandh, but because they know that the bandh was called by politicians in the foreground, and there are surely people with poles and clubs holding up the screen, the stage, and everything else?

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