Assam’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary informed the State’s Legislative Assembly on Monday that a single day of Assam bandh causes a loss of Rs 6,050 lakh to the exchequer which is equal to Rs 605 million. Last year we had as many as 17 bandhs in the State, causing a total loss of Rs 102,850 lakh. This is the kind of loss that helps us to realize why Assam remains poor despite having all the prospects of being well off. At the same time, it would be unfair to claim that all forms of dissent cause great loss to the State or that we should be spared any kind of dissent because of the costs involved. This would be most unfortute for two reasons. In the first place, not all forms of dissent are as expensive as bandhs. And no one has said that dissent can come only in the form of bandhs. There are fairly effective modes of dissent that cost practically nothing. One of them, of course, is a procession of short duration with placards boldly announcing the cause of the procession and the ture of dissent. Among the other familiar ways of expressing dissent is wearing small pieces of black ribbon along with a card stating the issue involved. The second reason is the more important one. It is that any talk of democracy without the means of expressing dissent is a mockery of democracy. Regardless of which political party is in power, the right to dissent must remain as a healthy element for the exercise of divergent views and courses of action. One of the easiest ways of recognizing a system that claims to be democratic but is opposed to democracy is that it stifles any form of dissent. Some alarming signs of this are already visible in India.
The High Cost of Bandhs