Bandhs, a blackmail tool?

After six-days of violent protests, the Gurjar community’s agitation for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status finally ended on Monday. Gurjar leader Col (retired) Kirori Singh Bainsla, after a meeting with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, agreed to end the agitation and apologised for the trouble it had caused to the people.

Twenty-five people died during the agitation, trains and road transport in Rajasthan was disrupted and on Monday the community blocked entry to Delhi during a bandh. Delhiites had a tough time, as transport was disrupted and in some places buses were burnt. Was the bandh and violence during the agitation justified? CNN-IBN’s Sagarika Ghose asked this question on India 360 to Adolf D'Souza, Mumbai's first ‘citizen corporator’ and Dr Shreekant Gupta, Reader at Delhi School of Economics and former director of National Institute of Urban Affairs.

Bandh politics Politicians say bandhs are “spontaneous gestures” of protest against authority. That was what freedom fighters said during the colonial period when peaceful bandhs were a powerful tool against the mighty British. But 60 years after independence, bandhs have become tool of oppression. The Gurjars, who are on the OBC list, say their agitation was justified because they are being oppressed. But is holding a state or city hostage through bandhs and violence itself not oppression? “When we say bandhs, protests, violence, when it comes to violence, all these things are bad. Today might is right. People use violence to hold hostage a whole city to get their demands fulfilled,” said D'Souza.

The Shiv Sena had to pay compensation in Mumbai for the bandhs it had organised—the result of a case that a citizen brought against the party. Should people or parties who organise bandhs be fined for the damage they cause? “Yes, there should be some kind of liability on the agitators. With their demands fulfilled, such groups get motivated to adopt similar methods again and again. There are so many ways of expressing protest. Violent bandhs should be immediately stopped,” said

Shrusti Jain

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