30th May, 2012 is a day I will always remember. Not because of the Bharat Bandh to protest against the hike in the price of fuel. But, more for the reason that I walked all the way to my work in the hot sun of Delhi.
Standing at the Bus Terminal, there were other 500 odd commuters stranded in the bus stand. I gave up all hope of getting a bus to go to my work. I slowly started dragging my feet towards my work place. It was hot. Later when I checked the temperature, it was a staggering 45 degree Celsius. The day and timing of the strike could not have been better.
The heat was immense. I tried diverting my thoughts from the heat. My thought drifted to the plight of the common people stranded in the bus stand. I could still see their faces anxious about getting late for their work. Many are halfway and are in dilemma either to turn back or to go ahead. At least for me, my workplace was not so far.
Bandh is a common form of protest for political parties, unions and other pressure groups to press the authorities for their demands. Being from Manipur, it is not new to me. Northeastern states are almost synonymous with bandhs, especially Manipur. All the northeastern states have experience it at some point of time. Infact a bandh was called by Zeliangrong Students’ Union in Manipur, a day after the Bharat Bandh, demanding ‘completion of a suspension bridge’. It is ironic – closing the road to effect immediate completion of road connection! The bandh has surely prolonged of the completion of the bridge further by a day or two. I think the road will be completed faster if the Union members pay a surprise visit and pick on those erring contractors and workers. It might take a day or two to do that. After all, they are going to spend many days and resources for the bandhs too – planning, delegating etc.
Bandhs do not serve the purpose rather it destroys the very purpose. Usually, in Manipur when there is a bandh for a day or two the price of the commodities shoots up almost touching the sky. The most perfect alibi of the shopkeepers for this phenomenon is that ‘we are running out of stock as our supply was cut by the bandh’. The common people who are supposed to benefit, suffer. Our grandfathers used to say, ‘Our society has become evil after our children started going to school!’ Pearls of Wisdom! Nobody knew what a bandh was! Bandh is a Hindi word for ‘close’. Surely if we know what and how to organize a bandh, then the credit surely goes to the education we have!
North Eastern states, particularly Manipur has had so many bandhs demanding improvements in public infrastructures; better roads so on and so forth. But the potholes in the roads remain and the roads still remain in pathetic condition. The list of woes go on. A friend of mine who was a Kuki student leader told me once, “If we give out a press release that we are declaring a bandh, sometimes the MLAs and Minister call us up and offer us money, requesting us to call of the bandh or reduce the duration!” I did not care to find out the verity of what he said. It will be a really sad, if I were to find that it is true! We just cannot imagine people making a living calling bandhs. It will equate to some insurgencies turning ‘fight for sovereignty’ into a lucrative business.
I am very confident that the leaders who call bandhs are sincere and committed to the cause. But, they should also realize that the people common people are at the receiving end. Bandhs infringe on the right of free movement, access to nutrition, etc. There should be, and are other ways to press for demands other than bandhs. I do not think our leaders are not running out of ideas. Or are they really running out of ideas?
The idea of Bandh dates back to the Civil Disobedience movement of the 1930s and the 40s. Those were the time Indians were fighting the British under the leadership of Gandhi. But now we are not fighting the British, we are fighting the evil elements amongst us. The strategies must and have to change! We cannot be so much behind!
Many consider bandh as a democratic means of demanding for something. Going in this line, it can be said that holding a bandh is a right. But, if a right infringes the rights of others, can that be still called a right? Bandh infringes the rights of common people. Bandhs should be ban!
All of us who are in this profession will shoulder responsibilities as leaders someday. We may have to pressurize the government or the authorities for the fulfillment of our demands. Will we go back to the ideas of 1930s and the 40s, organizing strikes, bandhs and infringed upon the rights of others? Time to think! It is not enough to plan ahead the strategies we will use to fulfill our demands. But, it is important to speak out against the evil of Bandhs to make way for other ways of putting pressures on the authorities.