KOCHI: Political murders, price hike, fever - you name it, and a hartal is called. We are speaking about the situation in our state, which was the first in the country to ban bandh. In 1997, the Kerala High Court had declared bandh as illegal and the Supreme Court had rejected the then LDF Government’s petition to reverse the order.
But, political parties which soon let it to masquerade as hartal prompted nearly 70 hartals, mostly regional, to hit various parts of the state in the first 30 weeks of this year. However, the decision of the UDF to stall the practice of announcing hartals in districts and even at the panchayat level on issues of not much concern, is a pointer to the change in mindset of political leaders, feel anti-hartal crusaders.
“Happy to hear the UDF is moving towards our cause, even if in a partial manner. Though we cannot accept state-level hartals, it is a victory for us as there is some sort of control in the regional-level hartals,” says Raju P Nair, Ernakulam DCC general secretary and general convenor, Say No to Hartal. Though the UDF had sought to bring in a piece of legislation to curb unnecessary hartals in 2015, the LDF had vehemently opposed the move by terming it anti-people, anti-democratic and against the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
“The CPI is a party which does not call hartals, especially state-wide ones because of their anti-people nature. We might have joined state and nation-wide hartals for a larger cause or have called hartals at local levels. As a party of the working class, we have a right to strike. Workers strike by keeping away from work and wages. But we are against stalling the life of the public. However, the media criticise us by mistaking these two,” says Kanam Rajendran, CPI state secretary.
Kummanam Rajasekharan, state president of the BJP which has called the largest number of hartals this year, considers hartal as the last resort. “We see hartal as a mode of protest against the failure of the government. For us it is to put pressure on the government to act against injustice. It is true we all should work for a situation where there are no hartals,” he said.
When the PDP announced a hartal on Wednesday after the Karnataka High Court denied permission to its leader Abdul Nasser Madhani to attend the marriage of his son as part of his parole, the social media was abuzz with anti-hartal jokes and trolls. One which went viral read, “Earlier, we were not able to attend marriages due to hartals, but it is for the first time someone is calling a hartal for not being able to attend a marriage. That is Kerala.“ The calling off of a hartal in 24 hours is a writing on the wall about the mood of the majority on the form of protest.