Many of my clients and friends abroad do not know much about Hartals and they do not belive that we (Indians and especially the people in Kerala) have so many Hartals every month. This post is mainly for them, to let them understand how important Hartal is – for us and why it is an inevitable part of our life.
What is Hartal ?
Hartal (also hartaal) is a term in many Indian languages for strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is mass protest often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, courts of law as a form of civil disobedience. In addition to being a general strike, it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business. It is a mode of appealing to the sympathies of a government to change an unpopular or unacceptable decision. [Wikipedia Link]
What is Bandh ?
Bandh, originally a Hindi word meaning ‘closed’, is a form of protest used by political activists in some countries in South Asia like India and Nepal. During a Bandh, a large chunk of a community declares a general strike, usually lasting one day.[Wikipedia Link]
Wikipedia is 100% correct ?
No, there is a mistake in the Wikipedia page which says – it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business – In real, there is nothing like a voluntary closing but people are terrorized and any business activity including traffic will be forcibly prevented by the strikers.
Which state is in the top position (prestigious) with maximum number of Hartals / Bandhs ?
The state with the maximum Bandhs in India is West Bengal where the average number of bandhs per year is 40-50 (ranging from a couple of hours to a maximum of 2 days per bandh). To make it clear, Hartal and Bandh are same these days.
Whatabout Kerala, the 100% literate state ?
Kerala (state that is located at the south end of India) is competing with West Bengal (with 28 Hartals in 2007) and we are pretty sure one day we will be in the first position with maximum number of hartals and bandhs. We are expecting at least 200 Hartals / Bandhs per year in the near future, if all political parties agrees (all are already united in this matter) we will see meeting the target in the very near future itself. Hartals for 365 days is the long term goal, considering the increasing number of hartals every year, we can say – nothing is impossible. Keep your fingers crossed.
Who can declare a Hartal ?
Any political party (need not be National, need not be even state level), religious party, or non political party can declare a Hartal. Basically a group of people (preferably more than 5 in numbers but even that is not necessary) is quite adequate and they can always declare a Hartal.
Do we need a valid reason to declare a Hartal ?
Absolutely not. Even though it is pretty easy to get very good reasons. The reasons does not matter at all. Declaring the Hartal and making it a huge success is the important part. Reason can be anything.
What happens after the Hartal ? Does it make any difference ?
Again – Absolutely no difference.
Eample 1. when petroleum price is increased, political parties declare Hartal for protesting. The petroleum price NEVER come down because of the Hartal – it remains the same after days, months and years (it may go up anytime though – may be you can call it after-effect of Hartal !)
Example 2. When political parties get into fight, (note : in almost all case, the leaders remains un-touched, only the so-called supporters or the common man get injured or even lose his life in these fights) after 5 or 10 people die, the parties will declare a Hartal to condemn the attack and fight (couldn’t find out the logic yet). Next month or next year, same thing happens and it goes on.
What is the advantage of Hartal ? Who are all benefited ?
People who get benefited by Hartal – Beverages Corporation, CD shops, Hotels, Meat shops etc. These shops will be flooded by people on the eve of a Hartal.
Who are all affected by the Hartal ?
In malayalam language there is a saying – Pothu janam kazhutha (common men are donkeys). That is very correct and only these people get affected (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Businesses will be closed down causing loss of millions of Rupees (Rupee is the Indian Currency. 1 USD = 42 Rupees approx – as on May 21 2008). People will not get vehicles to go to hospital even if it is emergency. People die, people starve, people can’t travel, marriages get postponed, all other functions get postponed, exams get postponed, offices will not work (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Every Hartal takes us back to the stone age.
Is there any alternative to Hartal ? Anything that can be beneficial for the common man ? Any messages to the people who declare it ?
Yes, but nobody is going to try those (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Anyway some suggestions are
1. Political leaders who declare the Hartal, their (blind) supporters, and all other people interested to join, take a day off (no casual leaves, take a leave with loss of pay from offices). Go to any village (ever seen one ? know how it looks like ?), try to repair some road there, try to help the villagers for making some open wells, buy the poor kids some food, donate them some dress. If you can’t do anything like that, just sit at home but do not disturb others.
2. Same people mentioned above – Cultivate rice and wheat on Hartal days (as there will be a lot of Hartals, you will get plenty of time to look into this!) Cultivate vegetables. We can even market them under the name – Hartal India Product (wow I am a genius – what an Idea Sir !)
3. Those who support the Hartal, feel free to close down your business for a day. But for God’s sake, do not force any one to close their business or shops. You do NOT have the right to do so. If you do not like to work a day and prefer to relax and enjoy, take a day off. Do not force all others to do the same. Do not interrupt the traffic. You can never give the life back to the patients – who die on the way to the hospital because of not having proper medium of transportation on the Hartal day.
4. Please understand that Hartal is a totally useless and barbarian method to protest against something. It is very simple logic. (no idea why the political leaders never understand this !!). This is the most cruel method and causes only trouble for the common man. There are people in India who get less than 20 Rupees (that is 0.5 USD) for working the whole day. You are responsible for people losing even that. Please try to open up your eyes and stop this crap for ever.
5. We will NEVER become a developed country if there are Hartals. Every Hartal will show us bad in front of the world. Every tourist who spend a day during the Hartal in India will curse us. They will tell their friends how terrible it is. The foolish act of some political leaders will make India’s image really bad. Do not allow it. Do not make the life miserable for Indians and those who come to India. Every Hartal will take the nation back to 5 or 10 years.
Now I feel better !
Foot note : I apologize for using the term ‘Stone Age’. Comparing these incidents with the ‘Stone age’ is like insulting the people who lived in that Era. They were so good, they never made our life miserable by declaring Hartals every now and then.