How has the national rhetoric on hartals altered so ridiculously that they are now an acceptable means of protest? Note recent events, as a coalition of twenty-five cultural and analogous organisations, including the Sammilita Sangskritik Jote, Sector Commanders Forum, and Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, called for a 24-hour nationwide shutdown from Friday evening to resist Hefazat-e-Islam’s long march towards Dhaka. And, yet, in the same speech in which Sammilita Sangskritik Jote president Nasiruddin Yousuf Bachchu, as coalition spokesman, made this announcement, he had the gall to spout, “We don’t believe in strikes.” What utter nonsense!
How can these organisations not believe in hartals, but urge the public to support one? Bear in mind that the national rhetoric has thus far been anti-hartal. Headlines have blared of the destruction caused by hartals, and now there are numbers to back this rhetoric. The Gonojagoron Moncho and the public have spoken along the same lines, and the government has called out the BNP and Jamaat-Shibir to cease its activities as they latter called subsequent hartals to grind the nation to a halt.
Herein lies the paradox, but first, recall how the Shahbag movement got started. In protest of the life-imprisonment sentence on Abdul Quader Molla, a group of bloggers started a peaceful sit-in movement that grew in momentum. Now, however, ludicrously enough, a group of freedom fighters, cultural activists, and non-believers of hartals, have called for a hartal, of all things, to protest a peaceful march? Pointless indeed, but counter-productive too, since the end result is that it raised the ire of both Hefazat-e-Islam and the Islami Oikka Jote. Both have issued threats of a series of nationwide shutdowns, starting Sunday April 7, if the strike is carried out. Enough is enough. When will these diabolical twists of events end?