In India it has become a norm for political parties and organizations to call for ‘Bandh’s (shutdown) when they want to be heard. More often than not such shutdowns are called to exploit a political or a sensitive issue and to gain attention. Although in India we have learnt to accept ‘Bandh’ as a mode of protest, it is not. Even though Political parties consider that it is their fundamental right to call public shutdown, they cause great hardship and suffering and disrupt normal life. Shutdowns are usually forced on the people by their leaders and consequently every such act is associated with violence resulting in loss of public and private property and injury to individuals. Such is the history of protests in India that one would expect public organisations- which opt for such measures- to be at least cautious about its outcomes as it may even lead to mass causality. Moreover, you hardly see people not affiliated to political party call any shutdowns, indicating that such shutdowns are usually carried out under the guidance of wily and influential political leaders. In a way its ironic how we blindly follow our leaders, than them consulting us before resorting to such drastic measures.
‘Bandh’s by their sheer nature are unconstitutional as they interfere with our fundamental rights. People are forced to support shutdown by fanatic supporters and thugs by forcibly closing shops and halting public transport. People observe these protests on account of fear. Therefore, the success of any such protests cannot be attributed to public opinion as it may not have been observed voluntarily. There must be a clause in India’s Constitution to hold accountable, to those who forcibly prevent others from exercising their fundamental rights. One wonders how these people got away with it for so long.
‘Bandh,’ a coercive method adopted by our leaders in India is not only undemocratic but also unconstitutional. Why not these so called ‘defenders of democracy’ resort to legal and constitutional methods such as demonstrating peaceful processions, filing of public interest petitions, creating awareness through mass media, holding fast etc. Most importantly why not use the powerful platform such as Legislative assembly and Parliament, which is meant for one thing only, to give voice to people. However, it is quite ironic that unconstitutional methods are also being adopted inside the house of legislature when leaders stage walkouts and cause commotion. The loss caused by such methods has been enormous to the nation’s economy and above all to our dignity. These methods are nothing but unlawful and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.
It is also high time that we in India adopt or rather enforce a common code of conduct for all political parties. There is also an urgent need for the political leaders to check their attitude and demeanour. Our political and public life today is an extension of the freedom struggle. Therefore, people generally consider it legitimate to take recourse to all those means which we employed against the foreign rulers. Let the Government and all the political parties -which believe in democracy- come to an agreed code and formulate a law with regard to legal ways of expressing public disapproval. The house of legislature is a forum for the elected representatives, and they should debate issues of national importance in that forum instead of disrupting life by holding public for ransom for anything and everything that tickle their fancy. At the same time constituents should remind their leaders of their obligation and demand that their fundamental rights are protected at any cost.
Even when our Supreme Court has termed these ‘Bandhs’ unconstitutional and banned them as back as in 1998, why no government is willing to book the perpetrators? Recently the new Chief Minister of Karnataka B.S. Yeddyurappa led a delegation to Delhi seeking special package of Rs.8,500 Crores from the central government for Karnataka. Any idea how much revenue may have been lost in a day due to recent ‘Bharath Bandh’? May be if we add up all such lost revenue there wont be need for outside assistance for any State Government. Why no political party criticised the ‘Barath Bandh’ except for ordinary people? If our leaders and public servants are serious about administration in the name of development they should be consistent in their approach. Or else all their acts would only be considered as scoring petty political points.
(The author is an editor of )
Author: Vinod DSouza- USA