Missing those hartal holidays

“The calling of hartals (shutdowns) at the drop of a hat by political parties is the single biggest deterrent to Kerala’s progress”, said Kerala Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy in a recent media interaction. When I heard it, all my memories of hartals came flooding back to my mind. Born and brought up in Kerala, I was used to this hartal syndrome of frequent shutdowns and holidays. After having moved to Orissa, for the last one year I was feeling this hartal withdrawal syndrome. Simply put, here there are no holidays due to hartals. In fact it is not just the case of Orissa. It is the case of other states as well where people defy the hartal calls and life moves peacefully. In Kerala the political parties have created a fear among the people that no one ventures out on a hartal day. Thus any hartal called by any political party becomes a success.

You can go on lamenting the problems the hartals can cause. Every service of the state gets affected. But there is another side to this story too. For many it is the time to relax at home, an excuse for not going to work, or to just chill out. The day before the hartal, the shops and the marketplaces will be crammed with last minute shoppers which will resemble some ongoing festivity.

If you are a school kid, the number of holidays you get, is normally twice or thrice the holidays you find in your calendar.  For students, these are the times of joy. One fine morning you feel lazy to go to school and suddenly you hear, ‘Today there is a hartal called by so and so political party and the educational institutions of the state won’t be functioning’. Wow! it’s time to wish each other “Happy Hartal”. You can’t thank the party enough. In another instance, tomorrow you have a math test and suddenly you hear rumours of a hartal. Then prayers will be held in full swing for the hartal so that the test gets postponed. When the hartal does happen, there is a huge sigh of relief. But if the hartal gets cancelled, then you are in trouble because your study time was dedicated for prayers for a hartal. In fact, if you go to a temple and pray for a hartal with some offerings to the lord, there is a very good chance that you will be blessed by the lord. Hartals means official holidays for all educational institutions. The school I went to is in the vicinity of the Secretariat and a small protest can result in suspension of the class. Then there are education bandhs, where only the schools and colleges remains closed, called by the parties like SFI, ABVP, KSU, the student wings of different political parties.

In Kerala, any reason, right from big political issues to small, many at times, trivial non issues can bring the life to a standstill. The petrol price rise, food price rise, arrests of leaders, dispute in the construction of flyovers and even food poisoning can evoke hartals in Kerala. Hartals are actually the handiwork of some unemployed lumpen elements who just wants to destroy the peace of the state. During my school days there used to be a long standing dispute between the management of engineering and medical colleges, and the government regarding seat sharing and fee structure. So the admission months of June to August were also the hartal months. I remember once there was a time when for at least two months, a week would consist of three working days and four holidays. Each day each party will have its quota of hartals.

After I moved to Orissa, for the past one year I never heard of such a thing called hartals, other than some rare instances of all India bandhs. The evidence is there in Google search. You type in ‘hartals in’ and the first option that comes up  in auto complete is Kerala. Even ninety percent of the Youtube video on hartals are related to hartals in Kerala. Out of curiosity to find out how alien the hartal is in here, I typed in ‘hartals in Orissa’ in google which showed an error asking whether it is ‘hotels in Orissa’. I guess no extra holidays for me to enjoy in here.

But I have to admit that in reality hartals are not that hunky dory. Hartals means no shops, no buses, no private vehicles, and total shutdown of all services. Of course you can enjoy the holiday but if some emergency arises then you won’t have any choice. In Kerala any Tom Dick and Harry can call for a hartal and make it successful. Is it the passive nature of the society that makes the hartals a success? The political parties need to introspect what exactly they have achieved by organizing these hartals. It’s time to save the Gods own country from these hartal happy politicians, or else the tourists who come here would feel that they have taken a wrong turn and reached the devil’s own country. Kerala has become a place for the hartals, of the hartals, by the hartals. So in hartal terms what about organizing a hartal, to protest against the hartals, since it causes too much inconvenience to the common man? Are you in?

Do not create another Kashmir out of North East – an appeal to extremists

When our country is all peaceful and calm you suddenly emerge out of no where, like a satan. You always detest peace and harmony of our country. You are a group of sadists who find happiness in inflicting pain on others. A common man will never be able to understand you or your actions.

Your presence is found at any place at any given time. You were there in Kashmir, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, UP and many others. Most recently you visited Assam and Mumbai. Losing is not an option for you and you always win. You won in Kashmir, Gujarat, Delhi, UP. Now you are winning in Assam and other parts of India. What made you so unbeatable?

Sometimes you put the mask of religious extremists. You stand in Kashmir and say “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai” (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar). You then terrorize the Kasmiri Pandits and oust them from their motherland. You go to Ayodhya and declare “Jab hum idhar se finally jayenge na, to idhar kuch nahin bachneka” (When we finally leave this place, nothing here will survive). “We have no orders to save you”, you say in Gujarat. You kill people, incite violence and make sure everything is destroyed in the riots. In the midst of the chaos you take advantage and kill people, rape women and do all sorts of ghastly things. You orphan many children, you render many homeless. But you are not ashamed of anything.

On some occasions you put the mask of regional extremists. You become Shiv Sena and say “North Indian people are unwelcome in Mumbai” and thrash them. Sometimes you become Naxals who are fighting for the regional liberation. But the liberation you are fighting for include violence and death. You only understand the language of violence.

Hindus attack Muslims in one part of our country and the counter attack happens in another part. But why is the retaliation important? This is not what Quran or Bagwat Gita teach us.

Now you are spewing venom in Assam and the North East. Tribals attacked the Muslim community there and now the Muslims are on a rampage in many parts of the country. Our North East brothers and sisters are being attacked. Isn’t they part of us too? Now they are fleeing towards their homeland from different parts of the country.

We have always treated our NE people differently. We consider them as foreigners, foreigners in their own land. But please do not take them for granted. What if tomorrow they take up arms for the liberation of their state? What if they say they do not want to be part of a country where they are foreigners? Please do not create another Kashmir out of North East. North East people are the pride of our nation. Don’t betray them.

Was it a trailer before the release of the movie?

The anti Team Anna people would vouch for it. The pro Team Anna supporters would categorically deny it. Whichever side you are on, the movie will be released in 2014. As usual the janata will decide whether the movie is a hit or a flop. The real question is what ever was going on in the past one year was it really the trailer?

The movement is dubbed as the final war against corruption. In the last couple of days the movement has undergone a paradigm shift from being apolitical to more and more political. Right from the first day of first Anshan this was the question on everyone’s mind  ‘Should Team Anna join politics?’ After four anshans spanning almost a year they found out that there was no other alternative. To fight the system you must get into the system. But this shift in plans was it their plan or destiny’s plan?

Politicians are happy with the decision. At least for the time being the anshans and the constant blackmailing is going to take a back seat.  But politics is not like sitting for an anshan. It is a long drawn process. Here they have to bring in a corruption free and honest alternative. But how can they achieve all this?

Some fundamental questions need to be answered. How to select honest people? Just by looking at or interacting with someone we cannot judge his credentials. Even the members of Team Anna are not saints. Now the perception is that if you support Team Anna and the anti corruption movement then you have passed the honesty test.

The second question is how to contest elections without spending money? During election candidates spent crores of rupees for campaigning. Money, freebies is thrown around at people to get votes. So can Team Anna get votes from people by promising Lokpal.  Elections cannot be fought on a single agenda. Roti Kapada Makan is what majority of India still needs. How can you explain the importance of lokpal to an uneducated farmer in a village? What is the significance of lokpal to someone who is poor and does not know how to get the next meal? Can Team Anna garner support from rural areas? They have to create awareness, they have to do a lot of campaigning and all this is not possible without spending money.

Then the third question is how to enlighten voters to vote on issues? Issue based votes can be obtained but on what issues? The election cannot be won just on lokpal issue. They have to take up other contentious issues as well.

It is going to be exciting days ahead. A new alternative is taking shape. The movement which initially had strength later fizzled out. Will the destiny change after plunging into the political arena. Let us wait and watch.