Bandh in Kolkata

Our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh delivers a passionate oratory as he urges the people of India to save energy “at every step, every minute of the day”. So while our enlightened leader is busy traversing during his trip of ideological fantasy, the state of Bengal incurred losses amounting to crores of rupees. This was a result of the twin disasters of consecutive bandhs on June 6 and 7, the reason of which was the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and gas.

The “bandh” or the complete cessation work on June 5 was organized by the intensely progressive Communist Party of India (CPIM), or rather the Bengal government. The bandh on the following day was organized by an equally progressive party, the Trinamul Congress. Both of these were 12 hour bandhs.

A new generation has awoken it seems. It is not the rebellious Rang De Basanti generation. It is rather the opposite I think. Our eminent political leaders have latched on to the newest form of “satyagraha” in the streets in protest. Gandhiji would probably weep overwhelmed “Miss Universe winner style” tears to see his legacy being carried on in this fashion. Perhaps, our leaders believe that paralyzing an entire state for twelve hours each on two consecutive working days is the best form of protest in a democracy!

The bandh on June 6 called by the Trinamul was comparatively less severe. Walking down the deserted streets, one could actually relate to Will Smith’s plight as the last man on earth in the recent blockbuster I am Legend.

Though our leaders kept on mouthing false words about the fact as to how emergency services like banking and others would be kept functional, it all fell to naught. Most of the banks were shut down as the employees could not make it to work due to the crippled transport system. The much boasted of Metro Railways which is usually the standalone functional service during the usual plethora of strikes in Bengal, was disrupted as zealous, party cadres stormed in and drove the employees out. Numerous examinations, and other scheduled programs were disrupted on both these days. However on the sixth,, only the British Council stayed open and held its entrance exams as per schedule.

It is accepted that the price hike is going to affect each and every citizen of the country, directly or indirectly. But the question of the hour is, is a complete cease-work the only way to battle the callous policies of the central government? The bandhs in Bengal resulted in not even a Pyrrhic victory where one party emerges as the winner, but with devastating losses! Already in the past few months Bengal has had its fair share of heavy financial losses due to ruinous fires occurring in some of the top notch industrial zones of the state, mainly Nandaram Complex in Burrabazar and the 125 year old Mullickghat flower market. Thus inane methods of political struggle are not going to get Bengal very far.

Shamefully, the Calcuttan’s attitude towards these two bandhs has let down the radical spirit of political extremism that the state was once known for. Once, it had been the hub of the freedom struggle in the times of the British Raj. Yet seeing the meek obedience that the city displayed in the last two days, one would not have believed it. Shopkeepers were scared to even put up their shutters lest trouble appeared in the form of political zealots! Bengal is no longer democratic it seems. In a democracy leaders rule by persuasion, but in Bengal the people are ruled by fear.

Hail Hitler anyone?

Rudrani Das Gupta

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