‘Bandh Culture’ in Northeast India

According to a 2005 report, a single day of Bandh (state closure) in Assam costs the exchequer Rs. 41.14 crore. Imagine the amount it must be translating into in 2015. India when it was formed, constitutionally guaranteed every citizen their fundamental rights and calculating the pros and cons, guaranteed everyone individual fundamental rights in the constitution. The movement of people under a Constitutional system is not to be restricted and violated but with the exception of only very specific and strict clauses spelt out clearly in the Constitution itself and mandated by the judiciary at times. Under no circumstances did any authority bestow so much power to any organization to dictate and pronounce fear in the minds of people by enforcing bandhs every now and then. There is no system of checks ensured in these bandhs before they are pronounced and forced upon people.

All Indians have the right to move around freely and establish entrepreneurial goals in parts and areas in which they want to set up their establishments. The culture of bandhs puts a stop to these establishments and brings with it not only economical loss owing its debt to the past and present but also creates a hole filled with fear and loss for ventures that have a probability of providing the area with a better economic scene in the future. Unlike the rest of India, the states of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland are worst affected by the tyranny of the bandh culture. A bandh in Assam, which serves as the gateway to The Northeast, has the potential to cut the supply of goods to the rest of northeast. It has a rippling effect on the economy of all the other states of the North east India. The price of goods has a tendency to multiply in unimaginable figures in a matter of hours causing a phenomenon of economic crippling. With a culture like that, progress seems far-fetched and imaginary to say the least. There are bandhs in the most important freight corridors or the most important connecting roads for days and weeks indefinitely at times. The price of essential commodities shoots up the roof overnight putting the entire stress and burden on the local population. It also translates to stopping passenger trains in undesired locations and unsafe conditions for days at a stretch.

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Bandhs in Assam are generally observed with the complete obedience of the local population much like the bandhs in other parts of North eastern India. The bandhs in Assam are generally given by the ULFA (United Liberated Front Of Assam) or AASU (All Assam Students Union) or some other local groups. Nowadays any local group can declare a bandh and the ‘ease of giving bandhs’ has improved over the years. Any local group these days gives out a press release or a press ad and declares a bandh. Most times people do not even know how and why they have been associated with the bandh.

Educational institutions, which are guided by a fixed routine and time their duration for completion of the syllabus, are dragged down by the culture of bandhs. In a highly competitive world we live in, the students suffer tremendous losses and lags behind in their studies with their contemporaries in the day/days of (a) strike. With thousand of crores of losses caused to the State easily lost under the diktat of a bandh, the state also loses out on the time-bound model of a planned economy it was supposed to adhere to. The people who have grown up in such environment of agitation and strike and have often been victims of violence, submit to the culture out of a sense of fear that has been instilled in them over the years and still continues to reside.  The conditioning of the people in these areas has been such that they cannot cope to resist the bandh culture. The silence of the government in these matters also hampers the shackles that need to be broken down from the minds of people and the fear associated with bandhs that need to be done away with.

The people in northeastern states are often made to believe that violent protests, bandhs, agitations, and strikes are the way to address and achieve their demands. They often become the self-acclaimed representation of a group of people who are being only affected negatively by the bandh if not anything else. Even if orders from Meghalaya High court and Supreme Court supported banning of calling for bandhs, the bandhs have become an institution rooted deeply in the minds of people, media, government, and organizations. On one hand, bandh mercilessly cuts off the connectivity of goods and movement of people ; and on the other hand there is a rising demand of more connectivity and more freedom and ease of movement inter- and intra- state. The Meghalaya Government has recently banned the media from publishing statements by organizations that call for bandhs and agitations across the state resulting in disruption of normal life. The high court also directed the government of Meghalaya to hold a flag march in order to dispel fear from the minds of citizens regarding strikes.

‘Bandh Culture’ is destroying the future of the youth , Now it is time for the northeastern people and organizations to realize that there are other ways and means of dialogues and negotiations to achieve their demand or reach an understanding. The diktat of bandh not only disrupts normal life but brings tremendous losses to many, especially the ones who depend on means of earning a daily livelihood. It comes with a heavy price for which the people have to suffer in silence and in fear. Dissent is good, but dissent must not speak for everyone conveniently without support. Dissent must never be dictated.

Image Courtesy : http://www.newswala.com/News-in-Images/News-Gallery-2014-08-22/Shops-keep-their-shutters-down-in-Golaghat-town-of-Assam-during-Assam-bandh-129681.html

1 COMMENT

  1. One of the most neglected areas of Indian land, the northeast has been struggling for existence ever since Independence and even before. In an order to raise their voice and to be heard in far away the soil of Delhi, the local political associations turn to the idea of Bandh. However, this has done more harm to the region itself than helping it otherwise. It affects the daily basic lifestyle and prevent the youth growth. Offices, schools, and colleges are forcefully closed and thus pushing the future of youngsters into dark!

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