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Bandhs galore in God’s Own Country, Sangh Parivar top list with 25 calls

With 63 bandhs so far this year in Kerala, financial loss has set the business community seething. A bandh is the favourite weapon of political parties to air their grievances, commercial losses notwithstanding.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2017 18:09 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala,Bandh,Sangh Parivaar
Recurring political violence between the RSS and the CPI(M) has led to a culture of bandhs in Kerala. The Sangh Parivar has so far called 25 of the 63 bandhs so far by political parties. (HT PHOTO)

After every round of violence, newspaper offices in Kerala are often flooded with a question: Is there a hartal (bandh) tomorrow or not? For Keralites, hartal has become a part of their life.

But the politics of bandh is hitting business hard in God’s Own Country – the tourism tagline that describes the state.

Kerala has witnessed 63 shutdowns this year, both statewide and regional. The Sangh Parivar, desperately trying to get a foothold in the state, topped the list with 25 bandh calls. The ruling CPI (M) came second with 11 calls.

The state capital had witnessed one last week and north Kerala district Kozhikkode was shut for two consecutive days. Seemingly, there is a competition among rival parties to call for a bandh first. The frenzy of a shut down mode makes them oblivious financial losses. Or so it seems.

On June 9, both CPI(M) and BJP had called a shutdown in Kozhikkode after their workers vandalised each other’s office. But the bandh spilled over to the next day after the BMS, the trade union wing of the RSS, thought it was not proper to call a joint shutdown with the arch rival. So it called a bandh next day alleging attack on its offices.

Privately, leaders across parties sheepishly admit they are against shutdown but in the same breath they add that they are forced to do it. You ask them: What did you achieve by disrupting a day’s work you get a stock reply: “Our protests were heard in the higher ups.” Leftists go a step further saying “the state achieved everything through such struggles.”

Things have come to such a pass that even a minor party can call a bandh. Last week an unknown entity called Muslim Ekopana Samiti called a bandh in Kochi to protest the Kerala high court verdict annulling an inter-faith marriage.

Traders say they are forced to close down their outlets out of fear and not to show any solidarity with the party calling bandh.

In Kozhikkode traders took a march against frequent hartal saying they suffered huge losses during the festive season. “We are fed up. We are forced to stand up against frequent shutdowns,” said K Sethumadhava, spokesman of the Kerala Traders’ Association.

According to a recent study a day’s shutdown costs the state Rs 900 crore in the organised sector alone.

Tourism mandarins are also sore saying frequent shutdowns pinch them badly. Earlier there was a proposal to avoid tourism sector from the purview of bandhs but it failed to yield any result.

“Recently a foreigner who starved a whole day in Munnar due to a strike said the state will remain her last choice,” a tour operator complained.

‘We don’t fancy calling hartals. But we don’t have any choice either. Our workers are being hounded by both, CPI(M) workers and police. They are not even safe in their houses,” said BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan justifying the frequent shutdowns. He said violence in Kerala can be stopped in a day if the Marxists allowed functional freedom to others.

After every hartal there is a heated discussion but it ends in a whimper till another party calls the next shutdown.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 18:09 IST