On the eve of the birthday of the man who legitimised the use of civil disobedience as a weapon of change, the Supreme Court yesterday came down heavily on the Tamil Nadu government for violating its order not to observe a bandh on the Ram Sethu issue. “Is this a government? Is this the DMK government, a strong ally of (the) UPA government? If the state is not obeying the court order, it will be deemed as a complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery. If things continue like this, the UPA should not feel shy of imposing President’s rule in the state,” the court said.
The communist parties were first off the block in questioning the “uncalled-for judicial encroachment”. But the court’s comments reopen the old chestnut about bandhs, especially state-sponsored ones: Are bandhs legal or illegal? Are the rights of citizens superior to the rights of individual political parties? Or is a ban on bandhs an infringement of the fundamental right to free speech including the right to protest on streets?
Is a bandh still a democratic way of showing dissent in this day and age if it is within the “four corners of the Constitution“, or has it been reduced to state-sponsored goondagiri? Is a day’s inconvenience necessary to get the point across or have bandhs become a political show of muscle power, the aam admi be damned? Should all bandhs be banned or only some kinds? And if bandhs are to be banned, what are the other ways of registering protest, and seeking and getting justice?
Also read: The Supreme Court was right
Cartoon courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express