Nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike action has been called today. This mass protest translates into a total shutdown of offices, shops, schools and law courts, all as a form of civil disobedience. Here in Bangladesh a hartal is a constitutionally recognised political method for articulating demands. This one was enforced by the opposition BNP, highlighting what they consider to be the failure of the government to resolve the utilities crisis caused by acute gas, electricity and water shortages, but not surprisingly accusations of extortion and political manipulation are also high on their list.
10,000 additional ‘law enforcers’ have been deployed in the capital Dhaka, clusters of them could be seen waiting at every street corner when I went out briefly to take a look around. Bangladesh has a history of ugly violent clashes between political demonstrators and government forces. I’ve never seen the city this way. With motorised vehicles banned from the streets it took my rickshaw no time at all to move around, and the silence was golden. All that will change once the demonstrators arrive however.