Bandh, originally a Hindi word meaning "closed", is a form of protest used by political activists in South Asian countries such as India and Nepal. During a bandh, a political party or a community declares a general strike. A Bharat bandh is a call for a bandh across India, and a bandh can also be called for an individual state or municipality.
Often, the community or political party declaring a bandh expects the general public to stay in at home and not report to work. Most affected are shopkeepers who are expected to keep their shops closed, as well as public transport operators of buses and cabs who are expected to stay off the road and not carry passengers. There have been instances when large metro cities have been brought to a standstill.
The state with the highest incidence of bandhs in India is West Bengal where the average number of bandhs per year is 40-50 (ranging in duration from a couple of hours to a maximum of two days per bandh).
The Supreme Court of India banned bandhs in 1998, but political parties still organize them. In 2004, the Supreme Court of India fined two political parties, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, for organizing a bandh in Mumbai as a protest against bomb blasts in the city.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and 13 non-UPA parties called for a nationwide bandh on July 5, 2010, to protest a fuel price hike. This bandh prevented Indians from carrying out day-to-day tasks, especially in states that were ruled by the NDA and the left. In Nepal, calls for bandhs have increased due to political instability.
Bharat bandh was called by the opposition party NDA on 31 May 2012, to protest against a steep hike in petrol prices.
On September 20, 2012, the BJP and other Hindu nationalist parties called for a nationwide bandh in response to economic reforms undertaken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. Chief among their grievances were the cut in subsidies for diesel and cooking gas and the decision to allow foreign investors to own majority stakes in the retail sector, including supermarkets and department stores.
One noteworthy incident is of bandh after the Akshardham Attack in Gujarat, in September 2002; it was the first time in history that nationwide bandh was called after a tragic incident; it was remarkable because all of India remain closed, from small tea stalls to the commodity and other stock markets at Bombay Stock Exchange.
- "Will Bharat Bandh shut Mumbai down on Thursday?". NDTV. May 28, 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- "Bengaluru to shut on Bharat Bandh". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- "Bharat Bandh on May 31 against UPA's petrol bomb". Yahoo News. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- WB takes the cake when it comes to bandhs; Economic Times, 18 Dec, 2006, 2230 hrs IST, TNN
- Pay damages first, court tells parties; The Hindu, Saturday, September 17, 2005
- "Bandh hits normal life in Karnataka". 31 may 2012.
- Mallet, Victor (20 September 2012). "Indians Voice Anger at Reform Plans". Financial Times. Retrieved 24 September 2012.