Hartal (pronounced [ɦəɽ.t̪ɑːl]), is a term in many Indian languages for a strike action and was used first during the Indian Independence Movement (also known as the nationalist movement). A hartal is a mass protest, often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, and courts of law, and a form of civil disobedience similar to a labour strike. In addition to being a general strike, it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business. It is a mode of appealing to the sympathies of a government to reverse an unpopular or unacceptable decision.[1] A hartal is often used for political reasons, for example by an opposition political party protesting against a governmental policy or action.

The term comes from Gujarati (હડતાળ haḍtāḷ or હડતાલ haḍtāl), signifying the closing down of shops and warehouses with the goal of satisfying a demand. Mahatma Gandhi, who hailed from Gujarat, used the term to refer to his anti-British general strikes, effectively institutionalizing the term. The contemporary origins of this form of public protest date back to the British colonial rule in India. Repressive actions by the colonial British Government and the princely states, which infringed on human rights and on peaceful movement protests to demand an end to British rule in India, often triggered such localized public protests, as in Benares and Bardoli.[2]

Hartals are still common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and in parts of Sri Lanka where the term is often used to refer specifically to the 1953 Hartal of Ceylon. In Malaysia the word is used to refer to various general strikes in the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s such as the All-Malaya Hartal of 1947 and the Penang Hartal of 1967.

Another variant which is common in Hindi-speaking regions is bhukh hartal or hunger strike.

The word is also used in a humorous sense to mean abstaining from work.

See also


  1. Online edition of Sunday Observer Archived 2005-05-10 at the Wayback Machine - 10 Aug 2003
  2. Gross, David M. (2014). 99 Tactics of Successful Tax Resistance Campaigns. Picket Line Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-1490572741.

Further reading

  • Metcalf, Barbara D.; Metcalf, Thomas R. (2006) [First published 2001]. A concise history of modern India (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-521-86362-9.
  • Chowdhury, Mahfuzul H. (2003). Democratization in South Asia : lessons from American institutions. Ashgate. pp. 84, 92. ISBN 0-7546-3423-X.
  • Baxter, Craig; Malik, Yogendra K.; Kennedy, Charles H.; Oberst, Robert C., eds. (2002) [First published 1987]. Government and politics in South Asia (5th ed.). Westview Press. p. 296. ISBN 0-8133-3901-4.
  • Riaz, Ali; Sajjadur Rahman, Mohammad (2016). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh. Routledge. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-415-73461-5.
  • Hossain, Akhtar (May–June 2000). "Anatomy of Hartal Politics in Bangladesh". Asian Survey. 40 (3): 508–529. JSTOR 3021159.

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