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India has celebrated its 70 years of independence. Our predecessors fought hard and long against our common enemy, the British. Across the world there have been struggle for freedom from colonial forces, but what set our freedom struggle apart was that our weapon of protest was ‘non-violence’, championed by the father of the nation, Gandhiji. Thence, we’re on the road to development as a nation in the areas of education, health, infrastructure development, modernization, etc. However, sad as we must admit, the independent nation is slowly being torn apart in the name of political ideologies, religion, caste, region, language, etc.

To protest against injustice in itself is right. India gained independence through a saga of protests. But post-independence, protests or “bandhs” became a tool in the hands of political parties and party leaders to ‘use’ their followers to grind their own axe. The sacred philosophy of ‘non-violence’ gave way to rampant violence; destruction of public property and political murders became part and parcel of the legalized-hooliganism named ‘bandh’.

Here in God’s Own Country, the political parties stopped using the word “bandh” after the Kerala High Court banned it in the end of 1990s. The bandhs didn’t stop though. They were just replaced with the word “hartal”. Today Kerala is known as “Hartals’ Own State”, with the state coming to a complete standstill for over 300 days in the last 6-7 years. Though the true spirit of hartal is based on non-violence or sathyagraha, in actuality today political goondaism is being masqueraded as hartal. Incidents of violence are common when political parties enforce hartals. Such a trend gave rise to ‘political murders’. Often political
ideological differences are settled by shedding blood and settling the equation with a saga of bloodsheds. Despite being an assault on the fundamental rights, people stopped reacting against hartals because of these incidents of gruesome violence.

The tourism industry – the tourists and tour operators alike, are the worst hit during hartals. When a hartal is called, people including foreign visitors are stranded, being forced to spend the whole day in a public place or indoors, without having anything to do, anything to eat or drink. A traumatic experience, I’m sure, they won’t cherish. Those propagating this legalized vandalism, namely the political parties, won’t agree with you that it’s a social menace. Each of them would convince you that the hartal they observe are for public good and those protests called by other parties are against the public interest. Political murders are wedded to hartals here and the victims are always common people. Never have we seen a prominent political leader or their family becoming a victim of political violence.

Those who destroy public property, those who justify such hooliganism and those who support and protect the culprits are all committing unforgivable crime against society. Isn’t it a crime to forcefully house arrest people on the hartal day? Forcefully shutting shops, denying access to medical treatment, stopping students from writing examinations, destroying public property worth crores of rupees – aren’t these all heinous crimes, crime against fundamental rights? Isn’t it a war against the common man?

The anger and frustration against this menace is dormant in the minds of the majority, but rarely do we see anyone reacting against it. A few years back, during the Cliff House Protest called by a political party, the mother of a school-going child voiced her protest against blocking her way to her house. I, for one, was surprised and enthused by the courage shown by a common woman to voice her protest against the powerful protesters – something, I believe, each of us feel like doing, but won’t have the courage. I took the opportunity to recognize that woman’s courage by giving an award, so that many others may take note of this incident and respond likewise. Similarly, I do support initiatives like ‘Say No To Hartal’.

The lone voices against hartals have not been strong enough to influence the policy makers. And, feeble attempts by certain political factions, too, have been torpedoed. It’s high time that the political parties and others adopt alternative methods of protest and say NO to violent hartals. As I said, to protest against injustice is everyone’s right, but we should remember that your quest for justice shouldn’t be at the cost of denying the rights of others.

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4 Comments on "On the SOCIAL MENACE Called ‘HARTHAL’"

Dr.K R.Madhu Kumar
1 year 5 months ago

The land of Hartals/Strikes:-
It is learnt that UDF has called for hartal in Kerala on 16 th October. What make Kerala different when compared with other states is that normal life will be paralyzed and all activities will come to halt in Kerala during hartals . Hence irrespective of party affiliation, the sufferers will always be common man.
On the other hand, in other parts of the country the hartals will not affect day to day activities or productivity…as business and industrial establishments will function as usual and vehicles will ply on roads during hartals.
The astonishing fact is that even though most of the public are against hartal they are keeping quiet and remain indoors during the days of hartal for making it a grand success!!! No one is bothered about the suffering of those majority population who are against any type of hartals.
Two years back when I visited Kerala for a week ,lost 3 days due to hartals!!. The first day was hartal called by CPM.. next day UDF and the third day BJP.!!!(friends from other part of the country don’t think that I am exaggerating…. It is a fact. Hartal and again hartals to protest against previous hartal is very common in Kerala!!!!)
One of the main reasons for Kerala being labelled as most unfavourable for Investments and industries is this type of political over reaction.
The Silence of majority is being taken as their consent and a few elements are controlling them. A change will be possible only when the majority will gain strength to come out against hartal and open their business establishments and use roads as usual…. Like any other parts of the country.
Political parties should find other ways to protest than disturbing common man by calling hartals.Very happy note that similar views are expressed by noted industrialist and social activist sri.kochouseph chittilapalli.

1 year 5 months ago

I would have supported any political party who fights in all earnestness for the people’s rights and needs. But as we all know, none of these political parties are interested in the welfare of the people. The people of Kerala needs to stand up and tell these political parties in unequivocal terms by braving out on every bandh day and tell them by the next election day that they will not vote for them. The news papers, news channels and journalists should come out in a strong way against the bandh. Unless there is an all round effort we will not be able to change this attitude. Come one Keralites, lets fight the menace out from our land.

(Sadly every person, institution and even religious institutions are all split across in supporting some political party for their own benefits.)

Dr Austin Betel
1 year 5 months ago

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Easo Kurian
1 year 6 months ago

There are many other ways to protest the political parties, that they will have to find out instead of denying the Rights of the people Because the majority of the people are not interested in politics. It is their right to choose to vote for which party. If they vote for X party this time, next time they vote for another party.But on the basis of power and party strength, denying the fundamental rights of the public and destroying the public utilities as well as private vehicles by creating vandalism and hooliganism is a criminal offense itself. Another important shameful thing is we are inviting foreigners for tourism through travel agents and other media publicity by spending our government’s money and then throw them to the foot path. The best way to stop this hartal is to charge penalty from the Party and the leader’s Pockets and imprisonment for the loss of economy and life loss, who are organizing this type of protest.

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