Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Feb. 12: For many years, for reasons that are genuine from the citizen’s perspective, the Naga people have resorted to ‘bandh’ or shutdown as the ultimate form of protest.
Bandh, which in Sanskrit means to stop, has been a powerful tool among societies across India seeking to register disapproval for something or even someone, in a manner that is deemed ‘democratic.’
But despite the genuine reasons behind such imposition of bandh, there is no doubting the adverse impacts such shutdown ends up causing to the economy, in various scale.
And for a state like Nagaland, whose commercial—as opposed to urban—centres operate in measly degrees, the pinch is even more sharper to feel. Shutdowns, no matter how genuine they are, always end up causing major loss to the state’s economy.
While talking to Eastern Mirror over the phone on Tuesday, the chairman of the Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CNCCI), Dr. Khekugha Muru said that flash bandhs affect the business people, especially the ones dealing with perishable items.
“Most of these items have to be sold the next day or it has to reach its destination on a time-bound manner,” he reasoned. CNCCI is the apex body representing the chamber of commerce and industries from all the districts of Nagaland.
“I will not outright reject and say all bandhs are bad because the recent bandh over the Citizenship Bill is quite justified. The business communities are in support of the agitations,” Muru maintained.
“(But) If any bandh has to be enforced, we want the civil society and any stakeholders to initially exhaust all the democratic means of protest before jumping to the conclusion to for a bandh,” suggested Muru.
According to him, the society should give ‘the appropriate authority sufficient time by implementing democratic means of protest like dharna, peace march, peace protest, sitting dharna, etc.,’ before implementing shutdowns as the final option.. “After exhausting all of the means, if we don’t get any results, we should go for bandh.
“Nagas should not just develop the bandh-culture like our neighbouring district of Karbi Anglong. Though the intention and reason may be justified, we have seen maximum bandh in 2018 and 2019 and consistently, bandhs have been imposed without any democratic means of protest,” he asserted.
Muru lamented that bandh has become a trend in the state. “We (business community) are totally disappointed because the bandh-culture is not something the Nagas are proud of. We are not saying that bandh should not be used but it should be used as the last option.”
Muru cautioned that the faith of investors will be affected if such ‘flash bandhs’ continues in the state. “We are sending out a wrong signal to the potential investors that Nagaland is a ‘troubled-state.’ That, anytime there is an issue, there will always be a bandh,” he added.
According to him, the state’s business incurs loss in terms of lakhs with every bandh, especially in Dimapur and Kohima. He said that Nagaland attracts shoppers from Arunachal Pradesh and Assam; while Dimapur and Kohima serve as a transit point for Manipur.
“Once Nagaland adopts the bandh culture, the people from other neighbouring states will stop visiting us. They will start shopping somewhere else. If such shoppers start using alternative routes then we are losing hell lot of money,” he said, and added “the government and the business community will incur losses at the same time.”
Taking an example of the confectionary stores and bakeries in Dimapur, Muru said that bandhs will end up affecting people who are about observe wedding ceremonies, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and other similar occasions. “It will affect the delivery of pre-ordered items. Unless it is absolutely necessary, we should not take a drastic step,” he iterated.
Referring the Sunday bandh in Dimapur—recently imposed by one of the armed Naga political groups—Muru said, “As a Christian state, we definitely support the shutter down on Sundays. But I suggest that it would be better if basic necessities are made available for the public.”
Interestingly, the outfit’s imposition of Sunday closure has raised questions as to whether the group’s leaders were working in tandem with committees’ running Sunday markets in neighbouring towns of Assam to where Dimapur citizens head every Sunday in absence of a market here.
As ever, those questions—warranted or not—remain answered, which is never a good thing.