Protests are multi-dimensional and have multi-utility in a democracy like India. The residents of the city expressed their varied opinion on Bharat bandh observed on Monday.
“Like any other political move in India, protests have a hidden agenda. The protests, including the ones like Bharat bandh, have an objective for records, but the motive behind it is entirely different. Today’s bandh was against the rising prices of petroleum products and other essentials. It is commonsense that the price of even one product would not come down on Tuesday, or in the next one week or month. Does that mean that the politicians, who called for the bandh, are unaware of the fact that the price of any product is decided by various factors?” asked Dhananjaya Hegde, a retired government official.
H S Chandrasekhar, a Congress leader, said, “We know that the problem will not be solved, but such protests help us promote a sense of comradeship among the party cadres. It motivates the party leaders and workers to come together for a show of strength. We also get an understanding of the support from various organised groups. This time, we learnt that the activists of JD(S), BSP and Left parties supported us. While the JD(S) and BSP are our coalition partners and are bound to support us, we were eager to know whether the Left activists would still support us. Even though their influence on the voters in a state like Karnataka is negligible, they can make news in the media, which we turn into our advantage”.
Harish Hegde, a bank official, said, for bankers, bandh is a 50-50 chance of closure. “If the protesters chance upon a open bank, they may force close it. Otherwise, we function as usual. Sometimes, we close the front entrance and try to complete pending work. Somehow, we have to reach the bank, come what may. If the protest turns violent, it is dangerous. Luckily, today, the protest was peaceful in Mysuru,” he said.
Abdul Usman Sharif, a shopkeeper on Mahadevapura Main Road, said, any protest, unless it turns violent, does not affect business in his area where people of the minority community are a majority. “Business starts from early morning, unlike on the posh roads of the central business district (CBD) of Mysuru. So, by the time, the protesters come to shut our shops, half the business is done. Immediately after the protesters leave, we reopen the shops. So, today, our business was not affected. However, some shop-keepers voluntarily closed,” he said.
C Narayanagowda, president of Mysuru Hotel Owners Association, said, they extended only moral support for the bandh as food is a basic need. “Since three years, we are extending only moral support to all protests and bandhs, irrespective of which party gives the call. Mysuru is a tourist destination. People who start off on the day of the bandh may cancel their visit. But, what about the people who would have come earlier and would be staying in a hotel or a lodge? What about bachelors, both students and employees, who mostly depend on eateries and restaurants? Even caretakers of patients in hospitals depend on restaurants. So, on humanitarian grounds, we keep our establishments open,” he said.
Bandh means thin traffic and less pollution. So, a section of environmentalists are happy. “Bandhs are good once in awhile. It gives a break from both air and noise pollution. However, the sad part is that the protesters burn used tyres and other waste, causing pollution. Some protesters also ride vehicles and burn fuel unnecessarily. Besides, some protesters take out mobike and car rallies, burning extra fuel,” said H G Santhosh, an eco-activist.
“People unleash their violent side under the influence of mass hysteria during bandhs and protests. They behave in a rude way, shout and harm both people and public, as well as private, properties. Violation of law and rules are common. The common violation is of traffic rules. Many protesters ride two-wheelers without wearing helmets,” said C Sadashiva, a teacher.