There’s a “hartal” scheduled for tomorrow, and that means staying in the local neighborhood. Staying here might be a problem if I’d ever been out of the diplomatic area, but since I am limited to where my feet can take me, I think it won’t restrict my movement too much! The traffic alone would keep me within the dip area even if we did have a car.
What’s a hartal? It’s a general strike, usually called by one political party to protest the actions of the other. There was also one earlier in the Fall to protest the low wages paid to garment workers (at the time, about $25 per month, now raised to $43 with the implementation of the new minimum wage on Oct 31). There have been other hartals in Dhaka to protest the government’s attempt to claim eminent domain, to protest election results, and the like.
The hartal was one of the techniques used during the independence movement in India, however it’s roots as a peaceful resistance have evolved into a slightly more violent activity in some areas, with strikers engaging in window smashing and demonstrative bonfires.
In downtown Oakland, California last week, a similar demonstration against a judicial decision resulted in several injuries and many arrests. I am assuming the same kind of thing happens in the local hartals, but I won’t be heading to the ‘hotspots’ of Dhaka’s political scene to find out. Apparently one of the big places for such demonstrations is the area around the campus of Dhaka University. That’s one reason I didn’t look there for a job! Don’t expect any photos from me, but I’ll let you know if life under hartal is different from the day-to-day.