India has this concept of a public strike or “bandh” that was, well, foreign to me. Unlike a factory or construction site strike in the US, which typically involves unions with a grievance and other unions that throw in their support and which is limited to the subject workplace, the whole community will strike in protest city-wide for a general notion or to raise awareness of a certain societal or political issue.
Businesses and malls often close proactively — in part due to concerns about employee safety/transportation, in part to protect the business in case things turn violent. Schools & government offices may or may not close for the same reason, but they seem to make last minute call about it which drives greater confusion (who knows if the public bus or metro will run, whether the courts or post office will be open). A peaceful protest is generally the goal, but mobs can turn unruly and violent. In the past, bandh observers have violently expressed their displeasure with business/commuters/others who did not honour the bandh; hence, caution is generally advised. People either engage in the bandh or hide from it– cancel business meetings, change travel plans (often because transport to/from the airport becomes challenging), etc.
Today in Bangalore, there is a bandh to protest rape. There have been a couple of recent rape cases that have gotten great media attention (one involving the gang rape of a 6-year old victim, a rape of a 7-year old victim and another where a 15-year old nun was raped). I’m not clear how a bandh will deter future rapists, but protecting women & children from sexual violence is something that can be improved (here & most places on Earth, as far as I can tell).
My office (in a private business park with security at the parameter & within each building) remained open; however, we have a work from home option so many people (including me) opted to do that. I took a walk around at lunchtime a noted significantly less traffic (notably fewer auto rickshaws) as well as closed shops & restaurants, but the metro is running and the Polo Lounge restaurant at the nearby posh hotel was open for lunch. Malls are closed until 6PM. More police are out patrolling. The media is reporting no incidents thus far (they seem disappointed).