by Dr. Madhav Prabhu
Bandh, Satyagraha, Andolan are legitimate nonviolent means of expressing discontent, democracy gives powers and the expression of one’s differences by means of protest is truly a great fundamental right. It will be wrong if I feel these struggles are illegitimate because the people involved have an issue which will always in their view be justifiable.
But it’s not always that we can justify a bandh and in saying this I am not for or against any political party, as every party will indulge in this some day or the other. Today bandhs have become a show of strength rather than discontent. There is the forceful imposition of a viewpoint and no debate. You have to close down or we will stone you. The very concept of karyakartas acting like bandh enforcing officers in my view is against the tenants of democracy.
What I believe in, can be contrary to the views of the other is not acceptable. There cannot be a second or third opinion, either you are with us or against us you cannot have another stand, is this the essence of democracy, where is the respect for my views. The karyakartas are on the road pelting stones to make the bandh a complete success, rather simply put satisfying the ego of the leader to the fullest. You are paid to do a complete closedown and most karyakartas have no idea why the Bandh is called for. Most bandhs nowadays are on issues for the common man but affect the common man more than the actual issue itself. The funny part is that if the state government is of the opposition party, they have to make the bandh government sponsored, somehow the part that law and order is a state subject slips by and law enforcement agencies become bandh enforcers.
Bandhs have their effects too, and the brunt is borne by the daily wager. Its easy for politicians to close the markets for issues which concern the poorest of the poor, but do they realize how difficult the life of these very citizens is. Let’s talk about Belagavi, Ganpat galli closed, Market closed, Shaniwarkhut closed imagine the impact. This very market area is full of vegetable vendors and hawkers, food is a luxury you can have only if you earn, I being a doctor have seen people skipping meals to feed their kids. I have seen families eat once a day because the next meal is out of stock. If such family losses one day there is no food for the entire family and this is not exaggerated. There are even today people who sleep with wet towels tied to their tummy to avoid feeling hungry if they don’t earn on that day. A coolie earns not more than fifty rupees a day and has a family of four to five, can he give them a luxurious meal in a five star built by a politician, he, in fact, has to work to earn his meal and his families food for that one day.
Being a doctor, I have patients who come from far of places in the district, they come with hope and they come with pain. We who commute in cars hardly realize this, imagine you are unwell and have to travel fifty to sixty km with your fever and chest pain, all this in the hot blazing sun or heavy rains. Now imagine you not able to reach the doctor because your only transport the state transport bus is not available, the patient will only suffer the agony and sometimes even die due to delay, and although one would say even doctors go on bandhs, let me tell you I feel somehow inclined against that too. The inconvenience of closing down public transport can only be realized if you are using one.
Stone buses, burn shops, destroy the products of vegetable vendors all for enforcing your views which is somehow justifiable but enforcement of the law is inhumane. When government property is destroyed, who bears the cost, we the taxpayers, it’s not the karyakartas who do it driven by the cause or in some cases money and alcohol. As an honest taxpayer I feel the pinch, it is my hard earned money which I have given to the government as my duty towards my country, which is destroyed by these enforcers of democracy, I bet if even ten percent of the karyakartas pay taxes. Enforcing bandhs somehow sound like perversion rather than democracy especially when the state government sponsors it. By virtue of belonging to a political party can these karyakartas evade punishment, it could be any party by the way.
There are elderly and vulnerable sections of our society who have the day to day needs, they need medicines, the little future citizens of our country feel hungry and need milk. Every household requires fresh vegetables. Do the sponsors of the bandh even care of such people. Essential commodities are called so because they are essential and their requirement is not optional, I bet our political class has sufficient in store but what about the middle class who silently pays taxes and bears the brunt of the protest, who will look after his right to essentials. We don’t all shop online, we have to go buy from the markets. I wish the politicians would rather protest by not eating for a day, then all the problems would be solved in a jiffy. Eating food, please don’t misunderstand me.
We have come to a stage where bandhs are not democratic fights but legitimate goondaism under the garb of concern for the common man. Even Mahatma Gandhi did not force people to close down, people themselves did because they had faith in the Mahatma, we have lost faith in the polity because they have themselves to think of before us.
I am not against the idea of protest but what disturbs me is the manner of protest. You can’t disrupt the parliaments where we have selected you to represent us and dance on the streets to legitimize your concerns, that’s not the mandate with which we elect our political class. There are other means of protest, productive and nonobstructive. There is no need for disruption to make your point of view heard, get well soon are words enough to disturb a wrong person, why use violence. We can let others work and in some cases carry on our duties and still achieve the desired result. We need not stop roads and measure the success of our protest in the traffic jams we created and the lives we took by obstructing ambulances.
The only people happy with the bandh are the kids, no school and empty streets to play cricket on, but then that’s why we call them kids isn’t it. They are not the ones entrusted with acting and thinking for their future, it is us the grown-up who need to learn the adult ways to protest.
These are my views, the views of a common man, you have the right to debate them, rather debate the virtues of this article, let’s have healthy arguments on the merits of a BANDH, but let’s protest with dignity to ourselves and our fellow countrymen.