Thrissur, Jul 6: Believe it or not, Kerala successfully observed its 57th hartal of this year on this Thursday, June 2008. State has earned the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country where shutdown calls by any political party will be a sure success.
BJP, the party which is has not won a single seat in Kerala assembly, has called the most number of hartals in recent past -- 31 of a total 57 this year alone -- gives a clear indication of the fact that the protests in this parts do not necessarily require mass support. The people of the state are so scared of hartal-related violence that they mostly remain indoors, indirectly helping the cause of the hartal observers.
"If you take into account the different level shutdowns being observed in the state (at state, district and village levels), this is the 57th shutdown observed in Kerala this year and each Hartal is badly affecting economy of Kerala," says K. Chandrababu, state general secretary of Hartal Virudha Munnani, an organisation campaigning against shutdowns.
Ironically, it is the Kerala High Court which banned bandhs for the first time in the country in 1997, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court also. When the court banned the bandh as unconstitutional, the term was changed to hartal, process remaining the same! Eventhough court refused to stay hartals in 2004, It asked government to strictly adhere to a nine-point directive that include ensuring normal life and transport, protection to properties and lives and compensation from hartal organisers in case of damage
Though most of the hartals have resulted in serious damage and in some case even loss of lives, the affected parties had not approached the court for compensation fearing 'backlash' from the organisers.
In the year 2006, 223 hartals were observed in the state.