People affected by violent disruption of public order seem to agree with the Supreme Court that bandhs are a national shame.
An exclusive Hindustan Times –C fore survey, commissioned hours before the apex court took suo motu cognizance of violent destruction of property, showed 78 per cent people were against bandhs and over 80 per cent opposed political parties or religious institutions organizing them.
The survey was conducted over Tuesday and Wednesday in parts of North India where two bandhs threw life out of gear in the past two weeks. (Punjab bandh on May 22 and Delhi and NCR bandh on June 4). Randomly selected 1031 people, nearly half of them women, were given a structured questionnaire at assorted locations in 9 cities in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi & NCR.
Three out of four people want a legal ban on bandhs and eight out of 10 favour severe punishment or hefty fines for the ringleaders of mob violence. 62 per cent say the bandh organizers should foot the bill or suffer punishment but there is a caveat: 55 per cent say bandhs are justified in extreme circumstances, i.e., when civil liberties are suppressed or when land or property is forcibly acquired.
It is significant that most are against police firing (only 9 per cent support shoot-at-sight order for arsonists). Bandh believers are a measly 15 per cent with another 10 per cent preferring voluntary participation.
95 per cent abhor political parties using bandhs for narrow sectarian gains and they believe politicians organise them for personal profit.
What if people think they are victims of injustice? The survey gives a resounding affirmation to citizens’ activism, minus the violence and trouble. Civil disobedience and peaceful dharnas, rallies and lighting of candles have the support of 60 per cent. Another 30 per cent would choose ‘gherao’ (19 per cent) or violent confrontation (11 per cent) in case they have been victims of injustice.
Opinion is divided on which section suffers the most but more respondents think that the bandhs hit the poor people, labourers and street vendors than the big and medium enterprises or the middle class, students and housewives.