Janata Curfew Today in India

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(B Someshwar Rao)

WHEN A CURFEW IS IMPOSED and you step out, you may be arrested by the police, but what can they do if all people voluntarily stay indoors, imposing a sort of curfew on themselves? The police cannot drag you out of your home and make you walk on the street. It is a ‘janata’ (people) curfew.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a ‘Janata curfew’ on March 22 all over the country from 7 am to 9 pm to prevent the spread of Corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic sweeping the world. Such a curfew could not have been even conceived in any other country.

Modi hails from the West Indian state of Gujarat and it was there that ‘Janata curfew’ was born. It was the creation of Indulal Kanaiyalal Yagnik (22 February 1892 – 17 July 1972), also a Gujarati, who led the Mahagujarat agitation for the formation of a linguistic state of Gujarat.

I still remember meeting Indulal Yagnik several times. He lived in Gandhian simplicity in a third floor room (in Bhadra area, if I remember right), from the window of which he would order tea in tumblers from a cart on the road below.

Though an MP from Ahmedabad from 1957 to 1971, he did not amass wealth as Members of parliament today do. His six-volume (in Gujarati, three in English) autobiography is also an excellent political history of modern Gujarat.

A statue at the end of the famous Nehru Bridge in Ahmedabad commemorates him, as does a postage stamp issued in his memory in 1999. Yet he remained a quintessential common man.

The curfew today is not only the world’s biggest effort to counter the world’s worst pandemic but also a tribute to “Indu Chaha’ (Uncle Indulal), a true symbol of Janata.

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