Why Shashi Tharoor’s Anti-Hartal Stance Seems Insincere

God’s Own Country is probably the State that witnesses the most number of hartals. So much so that hartals are even termed as the Malayali’s festival. Political parties are of the opinion that a hartal is the best mode to express protest against a particular incident. However, it is not clear for whom these hartals are being conducted. Is it for the public as claimed by the political parties? Is it to get their views approved? Is it to show aggression against the decisions of the establishment?

Political parties affirm that these hartals are a means to get the public their rights. But it’s high time these parties have a clear answer to the question – how can a problem be solved by creating another one? Are these hartals addressing the real problems of the public? There are solid evidences that are representative of the fact that hartals have done nothing but disturb and disrupt the daily chores of the public and also create huge losses to the State.

Despite being the first State to have banned bandhs, Kerala has not been able to bring any changes to the situation because these bandhs have taken a new face of hartal. The net result is the same – total shutdown.

The Kochi Post had carried a story on how the UDF ate its own words by calling for a hartal in the State capital last Wednesday. The party that had put forward a Hartal Regulatory Bill in order to curb “unnecessary” hartals has justified its action by terming it as an emergency and unavoidable situation where hartal was very much necessary. We had also mentioned that we tried contacting MP Shashi Tharoor regarding his opinion on the matter. Though we didn’t receive an immediate reply, we have been informed from his notice that Mr. Tharoor is greatly saddened by this situation and is against any logic that supports hartal. Thiruvananthapuram being his constituency, it is ironic that Mr. Tharoor, who clearly feels hartals are not the way to go, didn’t do much to prevent it from taking place.

If these political leaders do not have control over their party men how do they intend to stop what they say is not right? Speaking against hartals and proposing a Bill had gained them support from the public. But now when the UDF has become the Opposition party, it seems as though they’ve forgotten their previous stand.

Maybe that is the reason why Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala went on to say that had the LDF supported the Bill, the hartal would not have been announced. The public, however, was given the impression that the hartal was held in protest against the alleged foul play by the LDF government in the allotment of medical seats. So if the LDF would have supported the Bill and had it been passed, would the UDF not have protested?

Mr. Tharoor has also been a supporter of the initiative ‘Say No to Hartal’ started by Raju P. Nair.

 In one of his comments supporting the cause, he once said, “Hartals are the lowest form of political behaviour because what they involve in is taking some political parties’ political point to the extent of inconveniencing the lives of ordinary citizens. As a result of hartals, various students have missed examinations, patients have not been able to go to hospitals, emergency situations have risen in peoples’ lives, and the political parties have acted in defiance of their duty and obligation towards the well-being of ordinary people. Hartals are a disgrace and an abomination under the bandhs that have already been banned by the HC. But by simply putting a new label, calling a bandh a hartal does not smell any better. What these people are doing in calling hartals is coercing others into feeling their sense of aggravation or irritation on a particular political issue. Every political party has a right to protest and there are various ways in our democracy to protest, but they have no right to stop ordinary individuals from going about their daily work. That is why hartals are wrong and to my mind the time has come to ask the courts to ban hartals, because they are violation of the basic spirit in which people live in a democracy,” he said in a video.

Mr. Tharoor has also posted his ideas on Twitter regarding the recent hartal call by the UDF.

It has been reported that KSRTC buses were plying during the initial hours of the strike, but were later prevented from running by the party workers. Commuters had a tough time reaching their destinations. Students who had to attend their exams, which were not postponed due to the hartal, had to somehow manage, because not writing the exams would have serious implications on their future. This action is contrary to what Mr. Chennithala had said while proposing the Bill that was in favour of preventing hartals. And the political leaders only seem to be paying lip service.

Main photograph by Ramesh Lalwani via Flickr. 


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