Does anyone here know about the Article 19 of the Constitution of India? Heard of it? No? Seriously? You haven’t heard of one of the MOST exploited articles of the Indian Constitution? My goodness gracious. No worries. I am worse than you. In any manner you choose.
Well, for those who want to have a detailed read of the good old Indian Constitution, here you go.
The Constitution of the Republic of India
And Article 19, clause 1 is basically about all the fundamental Freedoms the Constitution grants the citizens of India. Or, to be precise (I love precision), it states this:
“All citizens shall have the right
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;”
Right. But that’s just clause 1. There are clauses 2, 3 and 4 in the same article that explains what exactly are the limits to which the public (or in the Constitutional language, the ‘citizen’) may use these freedoms. Since our main focus in this post is hartals and bandhs, let’s focus on the (a), (b), (c) and (d) since a hartal includes all of these elements on a regular basis and we will refer to these clauses in a later part. No? Well, for those who don’t know about the Indian political tradition of hartals, bandhs and strikes, here goes:
“A hartal is one of most common occurrences in India, as common as the cow dung on village roads and pot-holes on National highways. They are also commonly known as strikes, bandhs and political movements. All in all, they are common and aimed at the common man, in the sense that the common life is the one most affected. And the common man is the one most affected, because public transport stops, shops are shuttered and life seems to come to a standstill.”
So, you see, its just COMMON, affects COMMON and has become COMMON. And it’s time it stopped being COMMON.
These hartals or strikes first emerged in India during the freedom against the British. The Indians were protesting against the economic and industrial policies of the British, especially because the British were forcing the Indians to toil in harsh conditions in factories making things which were then shipped off to the UK and sold there. And Indians back in India were getting a very small part of the profit. So, in those times the strikes were a way to closing down shops and stopping economic activities in a bid to bring down the superiority of the British, both financially and politically. But now, when the political parties bring about strikes, all they manage to do is close down the small shops in the villages and stop all the activities of the labourers and the economic activities in their own country, in a way that affects the financial state of India very, very adversely. So, where exactly is the good thing that is the result of this strike?
Our politicians who may stubbornly say that the hartals have helped in getting the common man’s views across would have to go and confess their lies that evening itself because of the humongous nature of that lie. Let’s take an example, our great politicians had put up about 24 hartals in Kerala in 6 months. And out of these 24, 4 were about the rise in petrol prices. After these many strikes, which protested against the price rise, did the Central Government or the State Government reduce the price. So, what exactly was the use of disrupting public life & damaging public property on these 4 different occasions? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero.
Oh and the political parties conduct all these political strikes and hartals on the basis of the fact that they have “The freedom to speech and expression, the freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms and the freedom to move freely through the territory of India” but they do forget the next clause of article 19. That clause states that, ” Nothing in sub clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence” and considering that almost always, the hartals that happen in our Bharat infringes that clause in the sense that:
1. Public property is attacked and damaged, thereby affecting ‘the security of the State’.
2. ‘Public order’ is disrupted and public transport and normal life comes to a standstill.
So, every public demonstration and strike, if it disrupts public order and security of the State, is liable to judicial action, but then of course, no one takes the initiative and the political parties takes this lax attitude of the people and exploits them and forces them to suffer every month by taking use of some lame excuse and reason. And what about the people in our country? They use this as an excuse to contribute more to the so-called State’s coffers by queuing up in droves outside the state’s one and only profitable institution, The Beverages Corporation of India. They will buy a load of alcohol and sit happily at home as though none of this affects them.
Of course, nothing will affect them until they start realizing the immense damage being done to their state and how their tax money will have to be used to repair the damage to public property. When, oh WHEN will they realize what’s actually happening in the name of these so called hartals?
A really concerned citizen, currently unable to help.