New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a ‘janata curfew’ or a citizen-led curfew this Sunday from 7 am to 9 pm to stop the spread of coronavirus seemed to have been inspired from his time as a student activist in Gujarat.
But throughout India’s history, ‘janata curfews’ have been used as a form of protest, most notably during the MahaGujarat movement (1956-60) and the Navnirman Movement (1973-74).
“Basically it was a form of protest, earlier the protest was against the Britishers and later it was a protest against the ruling government of Congress particularly,” Gujarat-based political scientist Achyut Yagnik told ThePrint.
Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth had in their book Ahmedabad: From Royal city to Megacity noted that the idea of ‘janata curfew’ had been “borrowed from the 1942 Quit India movement when it was first implemented”.
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MahaGujarat and Navnirman movements
The MahaGujarat movement or the MahaGujarat Andolan was a political movement that led to the creation of Gujarat and Maharashtra from the erstwhile bilingual Bombay State in 1960.
The States Reorganisation Commission, constituted by then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953, had recommended that Bombay remain a bilingual state. Several protests and clashes had broken out then, which resulted in the deaths of a few college students in police firing in Ahmedabad.
As tensions peaked, the then-chief minister of Bombay State Morarji Desai called for a week-long fast against the integration of Kutch and Gujarat.
Activist of the freedom movement Indulal Yagnik (who was popularly known as Indu Chacha) gave a call for a ‘janata curfew’, urging people to stay at homes and not support Desai.
“This was seen later in the Navnirman Movement of 1974,” Achyut Yagnik explained.
The Navnirman Movement was a student-led protest that started against the “rising (price of) food items and corruption issues”. During the movement, several ‘janata curfews’ were imposed.
“This was perhaps the first successful agitation after Independence that ousted an elected government through extra-parliamentary mobilisation,” Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly explained in her paper Revisiting the Nav Nirman Andolan of Gujarat.
Narendra Modi, who was a pracharak of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at the time, had also participated in the movement.
According to Ganguly, curfews (presumably janata curfews) and protests were seen during a period of 63 days in 23 towns and cities of Gujarat during the movement and eventually led to the resignation of then-chief minister Chimanbhai Patel.
“Shops were shut. Streets were empty and there was no transport during the 1974 movement. There was limited movement but largely it was not possible to get any vehicle,” Yagnik said, recalling the scenes during that time.
Civil curfew in recent times
In 2013, a two-day ‘janata curfew’ was announced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling to press for their Gorkhaland demand.
The self-imposed curfew against the “atrocities” of the Mamata Banerjee government brought everything to a halt in Darjeeling.
As many as 220 GJM supporters and leaders were apprehended by the administration at the time. The situation escalated to a point that the Union government intervened and deployed several companies of central forces.
In 2019, civil curfews were witnessed in Kashmir after the scrapping of Article 370. Shopkeepers shut shops, students stayed away from schools and public transport stayed off the roads even after the Modi government eased restrictions.
Civil shutdowns have been a regular part of life in Kashmir since the heyday of the militancy in the 1980s-90s, with separatists frequently ordering shutdowns to protest against alleged state or Army excesses.
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PM missed to appeal against all firms of mass gatherings which he shared in social media handle. But who cares, even his own partymen today went berserk with large celebration in streets bursting crackers to celebrate return of Shivraj. Over and above they are openly questioning why media is daring not ask same questions to Muslims in karege number offering afternoon prayers. If they are not disciplined how can they question Muslims
The Janata Curfew is supposed to be on Sunday not today. Though I agree that it’s foolish to still participate in mass gatherings.
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