What's bandh got to do with it?
Greetings from Goa, where the liquor tax is “S#@* Maharashtra, I’m moving here” per cent, and the bars are open until “No seriously, this place is better than Disneyland” o clock. I love Goa. In fact it may be my favourite Russian city ever. Some of you are reading this and thinking “Dude Goa is a state, not a city.” To you I say, six tequila shots down, it makes no difference, I can’t spell either. I mean etiher. No wait, either.
As a BJP ruled state, it is the yin to Gujarat’s yang. Here everyone can drink, nobody sets anyone on fire (unless you ask for a shot of something that requires it), and Dominos actually serves pizza with meat on it. The one thing it did do though is enforce the bandh that the BJP called for on the 31st of May. This served two purposes. 1) It made North Goa even sleepier than it usually is in the afternoon, and 2) It turned May into the only month ever in which both the first and last days are completely pointless holidays.
The BJP called for the bandh to protest the rise in petrol prices. For those of you who are unaware of this development, petrol prices across the country were raised by Rs 7.5, or as it is known in America “two Facebook shares.” (Fun fact: When you share something on Facebook, it is automatically worth more than an actual Facebook share.) The BJP called for this bandh because they support the common man, and because once every six years, they are contractually obliged to do something that makes them feel relevant. Photographs of the bandh across the country show that in spite of their protest, they had no problem paying for the petrol required to set large pieces of public property on fire.
I don’t understand most bandhs, but this one was even more bizarre. With a falling rupee and an economy that looks as stable as Kim Kardashian’s love-life, I’m not sure how shutting the country down and causing thousands of crores worth of losses helps anyone. Besides, bandhs were declared illegal a few years ago, and anyone instigating one is liable to be punished under Section 149 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It’d be difficult to arrest the top brass of the BJP though, because I’m not sure our prisons are equipped with enough walkers, adult diapers and Dementors to police the dark magic they practice.
You could also argue that the point of protest is to do it even if it means courting arrest. After all, we wouldn’t have gained independence if the freedom-fighters and the British met for a round of Pictionary after every protest, but the difference is, I didn’t want to protest on the 31st, I was coerced into it. Somebody else decided they wanted to protest, and I had to stare at a sea of downed shutters as a result.
It’s the same problem I have with walkouts in Parliament. Every time someone proposes a bill, someone else finds something wrong with it (“These taxes are too high! This law is too draconian! This font is Comic Sans!”) and gets up and leaves. Could you imagine getting anything done at work if your boss went home every time you suggested a course of action they didn’t like. If your answer to that question is ‘Yes’ then hello Mamatadi, I’m glad this column has reached you all the way in West Bengal.
Also, yes, petrol is more expensive, but look around you; what isn’t? I’m pretty certain the government didn’t raise the price on fuel just because it’d be a good laugh. How about we save our protests for genuine problems? And why not use constitutional mechanisms that work? How about PILs against corrupt ministers. Voter abstinence against unfit candidates, and throwing beef pies at Narendra Modi. A bandh is like a friendly match between India and Pakistan. It may make a great photo-op, but all it results in is mass sick-leaves at workplaces, broken and burnt public property, and a picture of Manmohan Singh watching quietly from a corner.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi