Hartal (pronounced [ɦəɽ.t̪ɑːl]), also bandh (pronounced [bənd̪ʱ]), is a term in many South Asian languages for a strike action and was used first during the Indian Independence Movement (also known as the nationalist movement). A hartal is a mass protest, often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, and courts of law, and a form of civil disobedience similar to a labour strike. In addition to being a general strike, it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business. It is a mode of appealing to the sympathies of a government to reverse an unpopular or unacceptable decision. A hartal is often used for political reasons, for example by an opposition political party protesting against a governmental policy or action.
The term comes from Gujarati (હડતાળ haḍtāḷ or હડતાલ haḍtāl), signifying the closing down of shops and warehouses with the goal of satisfying a demand. Mahatma Gandhi, who hailed from Gujarat, used the term to refer to his anti-British general strikes, effectively institutionalizing the term. The contemporary origins of this form of public protest date back to the British colonial rule in India. Repressive actions by the colonial British Government and the princely states, which infringed on human rights and on peaceful movement protests to demand an end to British rule in India, often triggered such localized public protests, as in Benares and Bardoli.
Hartals are still common in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and in parts of Sri Lanka where the term is often used to refer specifically to the 1953 Hartal of Ceylon. In Malaysia the word is used to refer to various general strikes in the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s such as the All-Malaya Hartal of 1947 and the Penang Hartal of 1967.
Another variant which is common in Hindi-speaking regions is bhukh hartal or hunger strike.
The word is also used in a humorous sense to mean abstaining from work.
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