Strike! Strike!? [सिर्फ़ भारत में]

Only in India would you see something like this. Maoist rebels (communist rebels with a tendency towards violence) lost one of their leaders. From the linked CNN article:

“Indian security forces were believed to have shot dead a top Maoist leader, Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, on November 24.

The rebel strike was in protest over Kishenji’s killing, which is being investigated now over allegations the gun battle was faked.”

They don’t mean exclusively violence, either: shops shut down, and traffic off the roads.

People like to strike in India – against corruption (including lawyers striking against the arrest of the anti-corruption person!) against inflation, just about anything involving taxis. Recent news has made much of the FDI (foreign direct investment) situation (which will allow foreign companies to come into India rather than only being able to invest money in Indian firms – they’re eyeballing hypermarkets like Carrefours, Tesco and Wal-Mart), and there was even a strike asked for by a political party. This one for the rebels involved closed shops and services – but there were also attacks on various sites where the rebels have their strong presences (northeast India – Jharkand, Bihar, West Bengal and others). There were no placards waving… just cessation of service, and violent attacks (as is their wont, sadly).

It’s very rare in America and Canada to see coordinated strikes/denials of service in public settings, by the general public. They are usually tied to labour unions and strikes after poor service or inability to negotiate a contract, rather than everyone just not showing up. France sees fairly regular strikes on behalf of the general population – often students or transit workers, from my media gleanings. Nowhere else, however, have I read of rebels having their local communities strike after the rebel leader, a wanted man, was killed. I don’t think it was out of fear, either – but out of local support.


Anti-corruption protesters in August 2011

The anti-corruption protest by Anna Hazare was big news: not just because of the nature of it (and it’s still controversial: here is an article about the Jan Lokpal Bill), but also because he conducted a hunger strike – and that action is, again, much more common in India as a form of strike/protest than anywhere else. When Westerners get up in arms, they wave placards and march around locations; they don’t sit down and say “Okay. I’m not eating or drinking.” The passive protests are handled differently – and it seems that they’re not always handled well by people used to more aggressive protesters.

Indians seem to like to strike rather than protest (the placard-type) – just to demonstrate displeasure by cessation of work, or provision of services. There are certainly protests, but the strikes dominate, and I think it is the opposite in Western countries. There is a history of more peaceable protests (reference Gandhi’s Salt March), and I think a lot of that has carried through in the pride of the modern Indian: violence is not necessary in every case, but the idea of satyagraha (civil resistance, peaceful resistance). It is something somewhat small, but a striking reminder of the huge differences between India and America. Canada falls somewhere in between – everyone’s just so darned apologetic all the time. During the G20 situation in Toronto, I saw things that make me have to put Canada on the ‘closer to America’ side. Still – Canada and America present a very different face on the idea of strikes and protests than India does. They’re less frequent, often smaller groups, and trend towards being more vocal.

But only in India would you see the rebels having denial of service strikes.

*सिर्फ़ भारत में  = only in India

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