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BJD’s ‘hartal’ turns violent, public inconvenienced

Bhubaneswar: BJD Supremo Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s claims of a peaceful ‘hartal’ to protest fuel price hike have fallen flat with violence reported from several places by party activists. Public was inconvenienced, several vehicles vandalised, women and journalists misbehaved and even ambulances carrying patients were rerouted.

Roads were blocked across the Capital city and all major traffic junctions shut by the party picketers. At Rajmahal, unruly protesters misbehaved with a senior citizen travelling in an auto-rickshaw despite pleading he was going to the hospital. Similarly, a couple on its way to school was stopped and asked to take another route. When the woman protested she was allegedly misbehaved with and as her husband objected, he was reportedly beaten up by the BJD activists.

As per reports from various media houses, journalists too were not allowed to commute on the main roads and even misbehaved with.

Incidents of violence were reported from almost all districts while schools and colleges, railway services and public life were disrupted.

“BJD workers used abusive language and pelted stones on workers of BJP Krushak Morcha sitting on dharna. Inebriated BJD workers resorted to violence in presence of police who remained silent,” alleged BJP Padampur MLA Pradeep Purohit.

Meanwhile, reacting to the violence during protests, BJD’s general secretary Sanjay Das Burma said, “The violence was a result of the anger against the BJP-led central government and in some places our workers were also provoked.”

On the other hand, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said he is saddened by the violence during BJD ‘hartal’.

“The ruling party can criticize me, but should refrain from hurting public,” Pradhan tweeted.

It is also very unfortunate that neither the public nor the political parties observing hartals or strike are aware about the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen.

Even the Supreme Court and High Courts have laid down various judgements on the issue. In 1997 the apex court had confirmed a judgement of the Kerala High Court that read, “Calling for a bandh by any association, organisation or political party and the enforcing of that call by it is illegal and unconstitutional. ”

The SC in its judgement had stated, “There cannot be any doubt that the fundamental rights of the people as a whole cannot be subservient to the claim of fundamental right of an individual or only a section of the people. We may also observe that the High Court has drawn a very appropriate distinction between a “Bandh” on the hand and a call for general strike or “Hartal” on the other. We are in agreement with the view taken by the High Court”.

Further in 2004 another judgement came from the SC that mentioned none has the right to cause inconvenience to any other person in the name of hartal. The judgement read, “In the name of hartal or bandh or strike, no person has any right to cause inconvenience to any other person or to cause in any manner a threat or apprehension of risk to life, liberty, property of any citizen or destruction of life and property, and the least any Government or public property.”

In view of the above judgements, every person living in the country has the following rights.

1. To move freely

2. To work in his/her workplace

3. To complain to the police if he/she is stopped from travelling

4. To sue the concerned for loss he/she suffers due to hartal/strikes.

The judgements of the Supreme Court also mentions that the organisations following hartals are duty bound to:

1. Make it clear in their call that nobody will be compelled to participate in the ‘hartals’ or strikes.

2. Make it clear that traffic will not be obstructed

3. Make it clear that those who are willing may go for work

4. Make it clear that the fundamental right of others to move about will not be affected

5. Instruct their supporters to see that no coercion or force is used for compelling others to participate in the strike or ‘hartal’.

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